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What Is Oriental Orthodoxy?

The Coptic Orthodox Church, also known as the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, is an Oriental Orthodox Christian church based in Egypt, servicing Africa and the Middle East. The head of 

the See of Alexandria is the Pope of Alexandria on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark, who also carries the title of Father of fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Ecumenical Judge and the thirteenth among the Apostles. The See of Alexandria is titular, and today, the Coptic Pope presides from Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Abbassia District in Cairo. The church follows the Coptic Rite for its liturgy, prayer and devotional patrimony. The church has approximately 25 million members worldwide and is Egypt's largest Christian denomination.

According to its tradition, the Coptic Church was established by Mark, an apostle and evangelist, during the middle of the 1st century (c. AD 42).  Due to disputes concerning the nature of Christ, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Church schismed after the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

After AD 639, Egypt was ruled by its Islamic conquerors from Arabia, and the treatment of the Coptic Christians ranged from tolerance to open persecution. In the 12th century, the church relocated its seat from Alexandria to Cairo. The same century also saw the Copts become a religious minority. 


Apostolic Foundation

The Egyptian Church is traditionally founded by Mark the Evangelist around AD 42,  and regards herself as the subject of many prophecies in the Old TestamentIsaiah 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 common people who spoke Egyptian Coptic.  There were also Alexandrian Jewish people such as Theophilus, whom Luke the Evangelist addresses in the introductory chapter of his gospel. When the church was founded by 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. 

Coptic language in the Church

The Coptic language is a universal language used in Coptic churches in every country. It descends from Ancient Egyptian and uses the Coptic alphabet, a script descended from the Greek alphabet with added characters derived from the Demotic script. Today, Coptic is used primarily for liturgical purposes. Many of the hymns in the liturgy are in Coptic and have been passed down for several thousand years. The language is used to preserve Egypt's original language, which was banned by the Arab invaders, who ordered Arabic to be used instead.

Today in the Westernized culture where the Coptic Orthodox Church is thriving, liturgical services are conducted in English to accommodate the growing generations of Copts in North America and the many new converts to the Church. 

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