THE COPTIC CHURCH ABROAD
FR. TADROS Y. MALATY
One of the important phenomena of the modern Egyptian
society in general, and the Copts in particular, since the mid
sixties, is the exodus of large numbers for immigration
abroad. The Egyptian government realised the importance of
these Egyptians, their talents and capabilities, and established
a new ministry to strengthen the relation between them and
their homeland. With respect to the Copts, who represent the
great majority of the Egyptian immigrants, H.H. Pope
Kyrillos (Cyril) VI dedicated a lot of effort to shepherd them.
H.H. Pope Shenouds III is taking care of them and dealing
with their affairs in person. He spends much effort to support
them spiritually, in ordaining priests for every church they
establish, realising the missionary role of these churches and
their witnessing to the Orthodox faith and thought outside
I do not wish to enumerate the Coptic churches abroad.
But inspite of the many churches established in U.S.A.,
Canada, Australia, Europe, Arab countries and Africa, there
is still a great need to establish more new churches to take
care of the Copts outside Egypt. The capacity of the present
church buildings, and the number of clergymen in these
countries is considered to be much lower than the need of
the people, because of the unexpected immigration
movement which is still continuing.
It is divine providence that allowed me to serve in Los
Angeles in 1970, N.Y. in 1972, in Melbourne (Australia) in
1975, and in Ottawa (Canada) in 1986. I would like to write
about "the Church Abroad" in a separate book dealing with
her needs. Now, I limit myself to a simple exposition, not for
enumerating what has been offered by the Church abroad
and her activities, but to study her needs with a futuristic
May the Holy Spirit grant every heart of our brothers and
children abroad to act for the edification of the deep living
temple, so that new generations would grow up, bearing the
same Orthodox spirit. Having an inflamed heart, capable of
witnessing to the Orthodox faith through true evangelic
THE AIM OF OUR CHURCH ABROAD
It pleases us, since we are at the beginning of our immi-
gration era, to study and benefit from the experience of the
other churches which preceded us in this domain, particularly
the Orthodox churches, such as the Russian, Greek,
American, and Syrian churches in North America and in
Australia. We ought to benefit not only from their good
aspects but also from the weak points to which they were
Moreover, it is necessary to hold study sessions between clergymen, Sundays school teachers, and laymen and particularly the youth, to review the role of the Coptic Church abroad, and to avoid any deviation or ignorance of any aspect at the expense of others.
We may limit the principal role of the church to wit-
nessing to her Bridegroom through her living Orthodox faith,
her pious evangelic life, and her bearing the Cross joyfully. Thus, she will be the message of Christ read by all men, and a practical gospel that witnesses to the truth.
Taking this aim into consideration we may stress on the following points:
1. It is not the intention of our churches to race for
building magnificent cathedrals - for the West namely has
numerous invaluable cathedrals - but, her concern is to care
for the souls, the living stones with which the Temple of the
Lord is built. Every soul, of an elder or a child, is
exceedingly valuable in the eyes of the mother church. Alas,
it is so easy to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or
even millions on the church building and its attachments,
while the need now is for the intellectual serious edification,
especially of the youth and children.
2. We are desperately in need for a translation movement
of all our Coptic Christian heritage into the European
languages, in a modern style and suitable printing. Studies
including exposition and analysis are all required. Writing of
suitable literature, geared to our youth and children, with an
Orthodox thought, is also necessary. Thus, they will not feel
torn and tormented between their practical life and the
traditions they hear about. In other words, let us present our
traditions not as valuable monumental pieces of antiques but
as a living experience which can be tasted and enjoyed.
3. Handling the differences in culture, thoughts and
schools in the lands of immigrations, for it is important to
emphasise these differences in cultures as being sources of
enrichment, rather than of destruction, torment and torment-
ing. A Copt living in a western country extracts from the
West what is constructive, and at the same time practises the
spirituality of the East without contradiction or struggle.
4. Studying the problems that face the youth, particularly
what some of the Copts consider as a kind of obscenity such
as dating and mixed parties for dancing etc... These matters
must be studied wisely. We see some children, due to
unwisely pressure by their parents say: "we are not
Egyptians," and thus what the parents did was inciting the
children's hatred toward the Egyptian traditions. It is
important to emphasise the personality of our youth and
children to understand in advance that they are Christians
who have to practise their Christianity, wherever they are
with a spirit of self-denial and purity in complete freedom.
5. The need for studying the situation of the foreign
spouse. Practicing worship in a language subsequently
incomprehensible to these non-Egyptian wives would turn
them against the church, and they would not bring up their
children in the church bosom. However, some of the non-
Egyptian wives witness to the Orthodox life through their
deep love for the church.
6. A struggle between the Copts arose in some places
regarding the language of worship which I would like to
discuss now in detail. I would rather clarify the following
a. Any youth may feel lost due to his inability to participate in the church worship and might be lost for good, he (or she) with his (or her) offspring. Therefore, the church must take care of every youth and child, that he may become an established member of the church.
b. Any youth cannot participate in worship practised in a language unknown to him.
c. It is good to teach our children the Coptic and Arabic
languages, but this should be during separate sessions and
not at the expense of their participation in worship "in mind
d. If any of the elders feels uncomfortable when praying in English (or in any other foreign language), one should remember that this is one of the prices of immigration which he has chosen willingly. I do not think that one should insist on enjoying worship practises in a language known to him at the expense of his children's salvation. Therefore, it behoves us who used to pray in Arabic to accept praying in English joyfully for the sake of our children.
e. We have to attain a broad futuristic view. Perhaps the present generation accepts under pressure to participate in worship in our language, but it will be impossible to expect that, from the next generation. Therefore, it is the church's duty to look to the future and accelerates her steps to win the present generation of youth and children.
7. I would like to conclude my presentation about the
"Church Abroad" by exposing the necessity for witnessing to
the integral church life. For some churches cared more about
practising the rituals without taking care of preaching the
living word of God. The Bible is the centre of our
Orthodoxy, and the word of God should be before our eyes
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