Egypt’s Coptic Christian community enthroned its new pope on Sunday amid deepening concerns over the safety of Christians in the Middle East.
Pope Tawadros II, who was elected on Nov. 4, replaces Shenouda III, who died in March after leading the church for 40 years. The ceremony was held at a Cairo church with several Muslim Egyptian government ministers in attendance, the Associated Press reported.
According to tradition, the Coptic Christian church was established by one of Jesus’s apostles, Saint Mark, in 42 CE, making it one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world. It constituted a majority of Egypt’s population until the Middle Ages. Today, it comprises nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 83 million people, making it the largest single Christian community remaining in the Middle East.
Christians have long faced discrimination and attacks in Egypt. In January 2011, 23 Christians were killed and 96 were wounded in a suicide bombing by an Islamic extremist on a church in Alexandria. It was the deadliest attack on Christians in more than a decade. With the subsequent revolution that followed the “Arab Spring,” many Christians have become increasingly concerned with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist Salafi groups.