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[[Image:ChristCopticArt.jpg|frame|Coptic icon of Christ]]
The '''Coptic Orthodox Church''' is the portion of the [[Church of Alexandria]] which broke from the Byzantine churches in the wake of the [[Fourth Ecumenical Council]] in Chalcedon in 451. Sharing a common heritage before with the Chalcedonian Church of Alexandria, it traces its origins to the [[Apostle Mark]]. The church is one of the [[Oriental Orthodoxy|Oriental Orthodox]] churches. Its leader is the Coptic Pope of Alexandria, currently [[
Shenouda III ( Gayyid) of Alexandria|Pope Shenouda III]]. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria cares for about 18 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt and abroad, besides being the Mother Church of both the Ethiopian and [[Church of Eritrea|Eritrean]] Orthodox Churches. More than 95% of the Christians of Egypt are Coptic Orthodox, but other "Patriarchates/Patriarchs of Alexandria" also exist (Coptic Catholic, Greek/Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox - see 'Coptic Christianity Today' below), as well as small Protestant and Anglican denominations.
[[Image:CopticAltar.jpg|thumb|200px|right|A Coptic altar in Jerusalem]]
Egypt is often identified as the place of refuge that the [[The Holy Family in Egypt|Holy Family]] sought in its flight from Judea: "When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ''Out of Egypt I called My Son''
" ([[Gospel of Matthew|Matthew]] 2:12-23). The Egyptian Church, which is now more than nineteen centuries old, was the subject of many prophecies in the [[Old Testament]]. [[Isaiah]] the prophet, in Chapter 19, Verse 19 says "In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border."
The first Christians in Egypt were mainly Alexandrian Jews such as Theophilus, whom the [[Apostle Luke]] addresses in the introductory chapter of his [[Gospel of Luke|gospel]]. When the church was founded by [[Apostle Mark|Mark]] during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, a great multitude of native Egyptians (as opposed to Greeks or Jews) embraced the Christian faith. Christianity spread throughout Egypt within half a century of Mark's arrival in Alexandria as is clear from the [[New Testament]] writings found in Bahnasa, in Middle Egypt, which date around the year 200 AD, and a fragment of the [[Gospel of John]], written in Coptic, which was found in Upper Egypt and can be dated to the first half of the second century. In the second century Christianity began to spread to the rural areas, and scriptures were translated into the local language, namely Coptic.
=== The Catechetical School of Alexandria ===
The Catechetical School of Alexandria is the oldest catechetical school in the world. Founded around 190 by the scholar Pantanaeus, the school of Alexandria became an important institution of religious learning, where students were taught by scholars such as [[Athenagoras of Athens|Athenagoras]], [[Clement of Alexandria|Clement]], [[Didymus the Blind|Didymus]], and the great [[Origen]], who was considered the father of theology and who was also active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies. Origen wrote over 6,000 commentaries of the [[Bible]] in addition to his famous ''[[Hexapla]]''. Many scholars such as St. [[Jerome]] visited the school of Alexandria to exchange ideas and to communicate directly with its scholars. The scope of this school was not limited to theological subjects; science, mathematics and humanities were also taught there. The question and answer method of commentary began there, and 15 centuries before Braille, wood-carving techniques were in use there by blind scholars to read and write.
The Theological college of the catechetical school of Alexandria was re-established in 1893. The new school currently has campuses in Alexandria, Cairo, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, where Coptic priests-to-be and other qualified men and women are taught among other subjects Christian theology, history, Coptic language and art—including chanting, music, [[iconography]], and tapestry.
By the time the [[Fourth Ecumenical Council|Council of Chalcedon]] was called, politics had already started to intermingle with Church affairs. When the Emperor Marcianus interfered with matters of faith in the Church, the response of [[Pope Saint Dioscorus I of Alexandria (Coptic POV)|Dioscorus of Alexandria]] (the Pope of Alexandria who was later to be exiled) to this interference was clear: "You have nothing to do with the Church." It was at Chalcedon that the emperor would take his revenge for the Pope's frankness.
The Council of Chalcedon abandoned Cyrillian terminology and declared that Christ was one hypostasis in two natures. However, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, "Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary," thus the foundation according to non-Chalcedonians is made clear. In terms of Christology the Oriental understanding is that Christ is "One Nature--the Logos Incarnate," ''of'' the full humanity and full divinity. The Byzantine understanding is that Christ is ''in'' two natures, full humanity and full divinity. (Just as all of us are of our mother and father and not in our mother and father, so too is the nature of Christ. If Christ is in full humanity and in full divinity, then He is separate in two persons as the [[Nestorianism|Nestorians]] teach. Imagine your nature in your mother and your father; you are then two different people. If however your nature is of your mother and your father, then you are one person [http://www.geocities.com/mfignatius/others/byzantine01.html].) This is the linguistic difference which separated the Orientals from the Byzantines.
The Council's finding were rejected by many of the Christians on the fringes of the Byzantine Empire: Egyptians, Syrians, Armenians, and others. From that point onward, Alexandria would have two patriarchs: the "[[Melkite]]" or Imperial Patriarch, now officially known by the Egyptian State as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa [http://www.greekorthodox-alexandria.org/], and the non-Chalcedonian national Egyptian one, now known as the Coptic Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and Apostolic See of St. Mark. Almost the entire Egyptian population rejected the terms of the Council of Chalcedon and remained faithful to the national Egyptian Church (now known as the Coptic Church). Those who supported the Chalcedonian definition remained in [[full communion|communion]] with the other leading churches of the Roman Empire. The non-Chalcedonian party became what is today called the [[Oriental Orthodoxy|Oriental Orthodox Church]].
===From the 19th century to the 1952 revolution===
The position of the Copts began to improve early in the 19th century under the stability and tolerance of Muhammad Ali's dynasty. The Coptic community ceased to be regarded by the state as an administrative unit and, by 1855, the main mark of Copts' inferiority, the ''Jizya'' tax, was lifted. Shortly thereafter, Christians started to serve in the Egyptian army. The 1919 revolution in Egypt, the first grassroots display of Egyptian identity in centuries, stands as a witness to the homogeneity of Egypt's modern society with both its Muslim and Christian components.
==Coptic Christianity today==
The current Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria is Pope [[Shenouda III (Gayyid) of Alexandria|Shenouda III]]. There is a small [[Coptic Catholic Church]] ([[Eastern Rite Catholic]]) established in the 19th century and headed by a Patriarch of Alexandria in communion with the Pope of Rome. The [[Melkite Greek Catholic Church]] has little presence in Egypt, but is headed by a Patriarch of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
By some accounts there are about 60 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in the world: they are found primarily in Egypt (roughly 15 million), Ethiopia (roughly 38 million [http://www2.wcc-coe.org/pressreleasesen.nsf/index/pr-05-55.html]), and Eritrea (roughly 2 million), but there are significant numbers in North America, Europe, Australia, Sudan and Israel, and in diaspora throughout the world making approximately another 3 to 4 million. However, as applied to the [[Church
of Ethiopia|Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia]], which in 1959 was granted her first own Patriarch by Coptic Pope [[Cyril VI (Atta) of Alexandria|Cyril VI of Alexandria]], the word ''Coptic'' can be considered a misnomer because it means ''Egyptian''. The [[Church of Eritrea|Eritrean Orthodox Church]] similarly became independent of the Tewahedo Church during the 1990s. These three churches remain in [[full communion]] with each other and with the other [[Oriental Orthodoxy|Oriental Orthodox]] churches.
Since the 1980s theologians from the the Oriental Orthodox and Chalcedonian Orthodox churches have been meeting in a bid to resolve the theological differences, and have concluded that many of the differences are caused by the two groups using different terminology to describe the same thing (see [[Agreed Official Statements on Christology with the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches]]). In the summer of 2001, the Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchates of Alexandria [[Pastoral Agreement between the Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchates of Alexandria (2001)|agreed]] to mutually recognize baptisms performed in each other's churches, making rebaptisms unnecessary, and to recognize the sacrament of marriage as celebrated by the other. Previously, if a Coptic and Greek wanted to marry, the marriage had to be performed twice, once in each church, for it to be recognized by both. Now it can be done in only one church and be recognized by both.
* [[Cyril VI (Atta) of Alexandria]] قداسة البابا كيرلس السادس
* [[Demiana]] الشهيدة دميانة
* [[Didymus]] القديس ديديموس الضرير
* [[Pope Saint Dioscorus I of Alexandria (Coptic POV)|Dioscorus I]] البابا ديسقوروس
* [[Macarius the Great]]
*[[List of Coptic Popes]]
*[[:Category:Coptic interpretations of the Fourth Ecumenical Council]]
* '''Video - Christianity in Egypt and the History of Coptic Monasticism:'''
**[http://www.copticchurch.org/Video/CopticHistory/Christianity%20in%20Egypt.avi Christianity in Egypt];
**[http://www.copticchurch.org/Video/CopticHistory/St%20Makarious.avi St. Makarious' Monastery];
**[http://www.copticchurch.org/Video/CopticHistory/St%20Mina.avi St. Mina's Monastery]
* [http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/copticchristians.htm An Overview of the Coptic Christians of Egypt by Lara Iskander and Jimmy Dunn]
* [http://www.coptichymns.net coptichymns.net] ''The hub of the Coptic Media Network''
* [http://www.coptichymns.net Coptic Hymns]
* [http://online.mq.edu.au/pub/AHPG856/coptic_mq.html The MA Program in Coptic Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia]
* [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/arbible/message/25832 Selected Bibliography about Coptic Christianity]
Jurisdictions| Alexandria ( Coptic)]]