CATHOLICS IN EGYPT REFLECT CHURCH'S RICH AND VARIED TRADITIONS
The pastoral care of Catholics in Egypt was entrusted to the Franciscans of the Holy Land, who visited Egypt several times a year until the Franciscan Order was established there in 1666. In 1741 Pope Benedict XIV appointed Athanasius, the Coptic Bishop of Jerusalem, as Vicar Apostolic for Copts in Egypt. Finally, with his Apostolic Letter Christi Domini of 26 November 1895, Pope Leo XIII re-established the Patriarchate of Alexandria, declaring: "We restore the Patriarchate of Alexandria and establish it for Copts".
The Coptic Catholic Church is the most numerous of the local Catholic communities (200,000 faithful) and is organized into the Patriarchal Diocese, which includes Cairo, Alexandria, the Delta region and the South, and five other Dioceses: Minya, Lycopolis (Assiut), Sohag, Thebes-Luxor and Ismayliah.
Greek Melkite Catholics
The Melkite Catholic community (today about 7,000 faithful) dates back to 18th-century immigration from Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. It is directly subject to the Patriarch of Antioch, who has the personal title of Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem (granted by Gregory XVI in 1838 and recognized by the Ottoman sultans). The current Patriarch, H.B. Maximos V Hakim, resides in Damascus.
The documented presence of Maronites in Egypt dates back to 1639. In the 18th century the Holy See appointed two Maronite priests to serve as advisers to thee Franciscans who came from the Custody of the Holy Land to evangelize Egypt because "no one knows the land and mentality of the Copts like the Maronites". The present-day community numbers 20,000 faithful. The current Bishop of Cairo is the Most Rev. Joseph Dergham. The Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, resides in Bkerkeh, Lebanon.
The organized presence of Syrian Catholics in Egypt began in the 17th century and now numbers 2,000 faithful. The Bishop of Cairo is the Most Rev. Joseph Hannouche. The Patriarch, H.B. Ignace Moussa Daoud, resides in Beirut.
The community (now about 2,000 faithful) was established in Egypt in 1734. The Armenian see of Alexandria for Egypt and Sudan is currently vacant following the election of its Bishop as Patriarch of Cilicia with the name Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni.
Chaldean-rite Catholics, who today number about 1,000, came to Egypt in the middle of the 19th century. The Chaldean Bishop of Cairo is the Most Rev. Youssef Sarraf. The Patriarch of Babylon for Chaldeans, H.B. Raphael I Bidawid, resides in Baghdad.
The Latin-rite community dates back to the 18th century thanks to the work of the Franciscans. Today it numbers 8,000 faithful. The Vicariate Apostolic of Alexandria, Heliopolis and Port Said is headed by Bishop Egidio Sampieri, O.F.M.
Weekly Edition in English
1 March 2000, pages 6/7
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