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The Oriental Orthodox Churches / Coptic Orthodox Church

Coptic Orthodox Church

Number of faithfulapprox. 12 million, including around 2 million in the global diaspora
Title of First HierarchPope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark First
See of the First HierarchCairo (Egypt)
Current incumbentTawadros II (Soliman), born 1952, in office since 2012
Bishops and dioceses119 bishops; 89 dioceses, including 57 in Egypt, 5 more on the African continent, 14 in Europe, 11 in America and 2 in Australia
Liturgical LanguageCoptic (Bohairian) and Arabic
Presence in Austriaapprox. 8,000 believers; 1 bishop based in Vienna; 1 monastery in Lower Austria; 7 parishes, 12 priests
Presence in Germanyapprox. 20,000 believers; 2 bishops based in the Coptic monasteries in Höxter-Brenkhausen and Waldsolms-Kröffelbach; 45 parishes; 12 priests

The Coptic Orthodox Church stands in the tradition of the early Christian Patriarchate of Alexandria. Its name derives from the Arabic name for Egypt "dar al Qibt" (homeland of the Egyptians) suggesting that Egypt was a Christian country before the Arab conquest in the 7th century. The term Copts refers to those Christians in Egypt whose origins go back to the Alexandrian Church and who, after the Council of Chalcedon, were among its opponents. The few followers of the creeds of the Council of Chalcedon in the area of the Patriarchate of Alexandria were primarily Greeks (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria).

To this day, the biblical account of the Holy Family's flight to Egypt is constitutive to the identity of Coptic Christians. The biblical reports about the Jewish Christian Apollos, who came from Alexandria and worked as a missionary in Ephesus and Corinth (cf. Acts 18:24; 19:1; 1 Cor 3:4-6), also indicates to the early Christian community formation in Alexandria. As the center of ancient learning, Alexandria offered an ideal hotbed for early Christian theology. Important church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria († around 215), Origen († around 254), Athanasios (328-73) and Cyril of Alexandria († 444) had a significant impact on the development of the early Christian theology. However, Alexandria was not only a center of theology, but also a model of successful catechetical work, as evidenced by the first institutionalized school for the instruction of baptismal candidates. The increasingly official church character of Christianity soon led to an ascetic countermovement. The early Christian ascetics fled the cities into the Egyptian and Libyan deserts. These desert fathers (and mothers) formed the origin of Christian monasticism.

Under Arab rule (from 642), the Christians of Egypt formed a religious community that was tolerated under certain conditions but was also increasingly weakened by latent pressure for Islamization, special taxes and other disadvantages. After an eventful history with phases of suppression and revival, the Coptic Orthodox Church was able to consolidate its position in the 20th century in Egypt, which is now predominantly Muslim. The basis for this was laid by the Coptic educational system, which brought social recognition to the Coptic Christians. The great commitment of the Copts in ​​schooling and social and charitable institutions was supplemented in the second half of the 20th century by the revitalization of Coptic monasticism and spiritual life in the parishes, which mainly due to the activities of Patriarch Cyril VI. (1959-71). His successor Shenouda III. (1971-2012) built upon this, but also set his own accents through his commitment in the field of catechesis, the deepening of contacts with the worldwide Coptic Diaspora and the intensification of the ecumenical relationships of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The fact that their head is also referred to as "Pope" is associated with the historical role of the Patriarch of Alexandria, who from early on held a central role in the Alexandrian Church and was, therefore, referred to in Greek as "Papas" (father). Since 2012, Pope Tawadros II has been the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He is increasingly seeking ecumenical cooperation, as demonstrated by his participation in the inauguration of the new Coptic Catholic Patriarch in March 2013, his visit to Pope Francis in May 2013 and his approval of the founding of a World Council of Churches in Egypt. The solidarity of Christians in Egypt seems more important as reprisals by Muslim fundamentalists have increased again in recent years. They culminated in the execution of 21 Coptic Christians by IS terrorists in February 2015, which was also reported in the media. Today, the Coptic Orthodox Church is a global, vibrant church that, given the minority situation in its country of origin, can count on the Coptic diaspora.


  • F. u. B. Ibrahim, Kopten in Deutschland, in: Orthodoxie in Deutschland, hg. v. Th. Bremer, A.E. Kattan und R. Thöle, Münster 2016, 219-233.
  • M. Hesemann, Jesus in Ägypten. Das Geheimnis der Kopten, München 2012.
  • K. Pinggéra (Hg.), Christentum im Schatten von Pyramiden und Minaretten. Beiträge zu Geschichte und Gegenwart der Koptischen Kirche, Hofgeismar 2009.
  • W. Boochs (Hg.), Geschichte und Geist der Koptischen Kirche, Langwaden 2004.
  • E. Brunner-Traut, Die Kopten. Leben und Lehre der frühen Christen in Ägypten, Freiburg i.Br. 2000.
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