The Copts as a community were sedentary by nature and upbringing. They loved the land of their birth and were averse to migration to other countries throughout their long history. The idea of moving from their ancestral home to a new milieu in search of better opportunities dawned upon them only recently, after the middle of the twentieth century, when they began under various economic and social influences to seek other opportunities abroad.
In the following sections, information is provided about specific communities in Africa, North America, Australia, and Europe. Even more interesting is the establishment of Coptic churches in the Arab world. A church was founded by Pope CYRIL VI (1959-1971) in Kuwait. In 1972 Pope SHENOUDA III consecrated a church in Beirut, Lebanon. Other churches followed during the 1970s in Amman (Jordan); Baghdad, Basrah, Mosul (Iraq); Dubai, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates); Masqat (Oman), and al-Manamah (Bahrein). There is a church at Benghazi and another at Tripoli that was presented to the Coptic community by Colonel Qaddafi in 1972.
When the Copts migrated to new countries, they immediately sought a place of worship. Their financial resources as newcomers in a new land being modest, they found a solution by borrowing or buying old churches from other Christian denominations (frequently without payment or for a nominal price). Later, with an increase in members and more affluence, they were able to build their own churches or to adapt the acquired ones to suit their architectural and religious traditions.
Priests and monks from Egypt are assigned to serve abroad. With the exclusion of the Holy Land, where Copts struck roots centuries ago (see JERUSALEM, COPTIC SEE OF), the Coptic church is expanding outside Egyptian borders. Churches, small monasteries, seminaries, and religious and cultural centers are being established in many parts of the world. However, it is difficult to give absolute numbers of Copts abroad, owing to the lack of accurate registration.
POPE SHENOUDA III
The establishment of the Coptic church in North America began in Canada under the pontificate of Pope Cyril VI (1959-1971). The first priest, Father Murqus, with the help of thirty-six Coptic families already living in Toronto, established a congregation there.
The ground-breaking ceremony of the first Coptic Orthodox Church to be built in North America took place during the visit of Pope Shenouda III to Toronto. The Toronto congregation participating in the event consisted of 700 Coptic families. Canada at the time had 1,300 Coptic families.
Churches in Canada include five in Ontario (Toronto, Mississauga, Kitchner, and Ottawa), one in Alberta (Edmonton), three in Quebec (Montreal), and one in British Columbia (Vancouver).
- Brown, Lawrence G. The American Immigration Collection: Cultural Conflicts and Social Adjustments. New York, 1969.
- el-Masri, Iris H. The Story of the Copts. Cairo, 1956.
FAYEK M. ISHAK
United States of America
The Copts’ attraction to the United States was fostered by the American schools established in almost all important cities in Egypt and the missionary movement that had been active in the country for a long time. Migration to America, strictly speaking, was not confined to the Copts. It included Muslims as well. According to the 1970 American Census (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1970, Table 192), the Egyptian immigrants totaled 31,358, of whom approximately 25,000 were Copts.
The census of successive years showed a steady flow of refugees immigrating through Lebanon under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, the Catholic Missionary Services, and other organizations. More immigrants came to join already naturalized American citizens from Egypt. In 1973, thousands of Copts became citizens of the United States and were consequently instrumental in bringing over more members of their families. The increase in the Coptic population is reflected in the number of Coptic churches in the United States. These rose from two churches in 1970 to forty-one churches in 1989. The number of Copts in 1989 was estimated to be around 160,000-180,000.
The first priest appointed to the United States (September 1970) was Father Gabriel Abdelsayed for the first church in the United States, in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Coptic churches in the United States include nine in California (one in San Francisco and eight in Los Angeles; there is also a small monastery in Barstow), one in Colorado (Englewood), four in Florida (Plant City, Orlando, Pompano Beach, and Daytona Beach), one in Georgia (Atlanta), two in Illinois (Chicago), one in Massachusetts (Nattick), one in Michigan (Detroit), one in Minnesota (St. Paul), one in Missouri (St. Louis), four in New Jersey (two in Jersey City and one each in East Brunswick and East Rutherford), six in New York (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, Pearl River, and Rochester), one in North Carolina (Raleigh), three in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Pittsburgh), one in Rhode Island (Providence), three in Texas (San Antonio, Dallas, and Bel Air), one in Virginia (Falls Church), and one in Washington state (Seattle). Some groups are not yet large enough to justify a church. In this case they gather in one place and a Coptic priest from the nearest area holds a mass for them at regular intervals. Examples are Baltimore (Maryland), and Hamden (Connecticut).
- Brown, Lawrence, G. The American Immigration Collection: Cultural Conflicts and Social Adjustments. New York, 1969. Constant, H. J., Jr., Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. New York, 1989.
Modern Christianity in Africa owes its inception to the European and American missionaries who came in the train of the white colonialists. With the disappearance of colonial regimes and the rise of independent nation-states, the missionaries began to disappear. The leadership of the churches was assumed by Africans who were educated and trained abroad. However, many Africans separated themselves from the missionary churches and/or formed their own indigenous churches known as African Independent Churches (more than six thousand churches all over Africa). Their leaders led their native constitutents into a tribal and cultural form of worship that mixed native elements with Christian teachings.
Since Christianity in Africa originated through Saint Mark, the Cyrene-born apostle who organized the Coptic church in Egypt in the first century, the Coptic church could fill the vacuum created by the exit of the foreign missionaries. With the background of a long-standing history of an established ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH the Copts were encouraged to enter the African field, with their labors initially concentrated in Kenya.
So it was that the Coptic church was established in the 1970s with the consecration in Cairo of a bishop of African affairs, to reside in Nairobi. On 13 June 1976, Father Antonios al-Baramusi, a monk of DAYR AL-BARAMUS and formerly a practicing physician as well as a deacon and layman, was elevated and given the name Bishop Antonius Marcus. At first, his flock consisted of seventy-five Copts of Egyptian origin and 2,000 Ethiopians. Aided by two Coptic monks, Bishop Antonius was able to gain 4,100 converts of Kenyan origin and to serve many newcomers from Ethiopia.
With the steady expansion of Coptic Christianity in East Africa, numerous churches were founded in various areas of that vast country. At present, the Coptic churches number twelve, including a Cathedral of Saint Mark and a Church of Saint Antony in Nairobi. The remaining churches are evenly distributed in the western Nyanza provinces around Lake Victoria and the Ukambani area.
Furthermore, the Copts have a church in Harari (Zimbabwe) and one in Lusaka (Zambia).
The services are conducted in the local vernacular and the Coptic liturgies have been translated into five native dialects. In addition to priests from Egypt, native Kenyans are now being ordained as priests.
Two modest beginnings of monastic institutions have been established in the diocese of Africa: the Monastery of Saint Antony in Nairobi and Saint Menas’ Monastery in Ebusakami in the Western province.
Each church has its Sunday school. Each of the monasteries includes a cultural center as well as a modest theological college and a modest vocational center for the training of women.
BISHOP ANTONIUS MARCUS
Coptic migration to Australia was precipitated by circumstances associated with the economic policies of the Nasser regime. It was natural for the Copts to envisage migrating to Europe and America, but with the difficulties that arose in accepting immigrants to the Western European countries as well as to the United States and Canada, Copts began to look to the still-open door in Australia. Emigration of Copts to Australia had started in a small way as early as 1964, and gradually reached its peak in 1969.
They concentrated along the populous eastern coast where they numbered approximately 35,000. In 1969, the Copts established their first church in the city of Sydney, which they dedicated to Saint Mark. Other churches followed. In 1989, Australia counted fourteen churches: six in Sydney, four in Melbourne, and one each in Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, and Canberra. The concentration of Copts in the large city of Melbourne led to the establishment of a Coptic monastery in that area.
For centuries the Christian faith in France had kept close ties with the Holy Land, Egypt, and the desert fathers. Beginning in the fourth century, the maritime connections between Alexandria and Marseilles helped the infiltration of Alexandrian Christian thought in Gaul.
It was at the beginning of the fifth century that John CASSIAN, imbued with Egyptian monastic ideals, arrived in Marseilles. Two of his books, the Institutes and the Conferences, in which he wrote about the life, customs, and wisdom of the desert fathers, were the result of his stay among them. A testimony of his influence still exists in Saint Victor in Marseilles and the monastery of Lérins on the island of Saint Honorat (opposite Cannes); Pachomian monasticism inspired the rule of these establishments as well as the rules of many others across Europe. This influence continued for centuries.
On Pentecost 1974 (2 June), assisted by seventeen bishops and archbishops of the Holy Synod, Pope Shenouda III canonically established the Eparchy of France by ordaining two European monks who had shared the life of their desert brothers in DAYR ANBA BISHOI. The monk Marcos from Amsterdam was made bishop of Marseilles, Toulon, and all of France. The monk Athanasios, a French national, received the title of chorepiscopus of the city of Paris.
Five spiritual centers have been established since. The Coptic Orthodox Hermitage of Saint Mark, with a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Zaytun, is the seat of the bishop in Le Revest-les-Eaux near Toulon. In Plessis l’Eveque, near Meaux, the Priory of Saint Mark is the seat of the chorepiscopus; its chapel is dedicated to the Mother of God and Saint Mark. In Paris, the Coptic parish of Saint Mary and Saint Mark holds services in the crypt of the Church of Saint Sulpice.
In Marseilles the parish of Saint George and Saint Mark was founded in 1983; mass is held in the Church of Saint Nicholas. A small private chapel is also in use in Tamaris-sur-Mer near Toulon; it is dedicated to Saint Antony and Saint Michael. The largest Coptic congregation is in Paris with over 700 members.
Marseilles and Toulon follow with around 400 members each. With the exception of the chapel at Le Revest-les-Eaux, the Copts in France celebrate mass in host churches.
- Chadwich, O. John Cassian, a Study in Primitive Monasticism. Cambridge, 1950.
- Cristini, L. Jean Cassien ou la spiritualité du desert, 2 vols. Paris, 1946.
PIERRE DE BOGDANOFF
The Coptic church in Germany was inaugurated in March 1975 by Pope Shenouda III, in response to an appeal from the growing Coptic community in the Federal Republic. Father Salib Suryal was delegated as its first minister in Frankfurt, where the Copts secured a historic Evangelical church nearby, known as the Bethlehem Church, built in 1799. They named it the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mark. Another church followed at Stuttgart and was dedicated to Saint George. At present, Germany has a total of seven Coptic churches.
Besides the above there are churches at Düsseldorf (dedicated to the Virgin Mary), Munich (a gift from the Roman Catholic church, which was dedicated to Saint Menas), Hannover (a gift from the Evangelical Protestants, dedicated to Saint Athanasius the Apostolic), Berlin (dedicated to Saint Antony and Saint Shenute), and Hamburg (dedicated to Saint Peter, Seal of the Martyrs).
The Copts in Germany in the late 1980s consisted of approximately 500 families.
A Coptic center at Kresselbach near Frankfurt became the nucleus of a monastic institution.
The modern history of Egypt has fostered closer cultural relations with Britain than with any other Western country. From the early decades of the twentieth century, Egyptian students were sent to pursue higher studies in British universities. A good proportion of those students were Copts who subsequently were able to secure positions in the medical profession and various academic institutions throughout Britain. This proved a great incentive for many to seek permanent residence in Britain. This small community of expatriates grew considerably during the 1970s as a result of the easing of emigration restrictions previously imposed by the Egyptian authorities.
The first recorded Coptic liturgy to be celebrated in Britain took place in London on Friday, 10 August 1954. The celebrant on that occasion was Father Makari al-Suryani (later to be ordained Bishop SAMUEL). The liturgy was held at a Greek Orthodox church in London.
Efforts toward more organized religious activities were intensified in the 1960s. But it was not until 1971 that the first Coptic priest in England, Father Antuniyus al-Suryani (later Bishop Bakhumius of Beheira) celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Andrew’s Church, Holborn, London, by special arrangement with its archdeacon.
A Coptic church in London was realized in 1976 when the church council purchased a church in Kensington. In January 1978, after it had been redesigned into a proper Coptic church, the church was formally consecrated and dedicated to Saint Mark. Another church in Croydon, south of London, was acquired in the late 1980s.
With the increase in the number of Coptic residents in England, other churches were later established in Manchester and Solihull, (Birmingham). In addition the clergy take turns visiting smaller communities in other areas such as Cardiff, Glasgow (Scotland), and Dublin (Irish Republic).
The number of Copts in Switzerland in 1989 was about 700. They live mainly in Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Lucerne, and Lugano.
In 1981 Pope Shenouda III ordained a monk, Serapion Anba Bischoy, from the Anba Bishoi Monastery, as the first priest of the Coptic church in Switzerland. When he later was consecrated bishop and moved to Cairo, others were appointed to replace him. With the exception of Geneva, where the Copts rent a government-owned church, the other congregations use mainly Catholic churches.
It is difficult to follow Coptic immigrants to other countries of Europe, since there is no official register to indicate their continuous movements. However, Coptic communities are known to exist in Austria, where congregations meet regularly in Vienna, Linz, Klagenfurt, and Graz. The Copts in Amsterdam purchased a church that they dedicated to Saint Mark. A Coptic church was established in Milan in 1986, while small congregations are found in Athens and Madrid. One Coptic church exists in Stockholm and another in Copenhagen.