CAIRO - In an elaborate ceremony, Egypt's ancient Coptic Christian church chose on Sunday, November 04, a new pope, Bishop Tawadros, to lead the Middle East's biggest Christian community.
"Pope Tawadros II is the 118th (leader of the church), blessed congratulations to you," said interim Pope Bakhomious, dressed in gold-embroidered robes, who has temporarily been in the post since Pope Shenouda's death, Reuters reported.
The nomination of the new pope was made in a ritual steeped in tradition, filled with prayer, chants and incense at Abbasiya cathedral in Cairo.
The names of three candidates chosen in an earlier vote were placed in a wax-sealed bowl before a blindfolded boy picked out one name.
These names were set after a ballot last week that whittled down the number of candidates to a choice of three.
Voters included leading members of the church, public figures and a handful of representatives of the Ethiopian Church, which has historic links to the church in Egypt
Copts believe this long-established process ensured worldly influences did not determine the successor to Pope Shenouda III, who led the church for four decades until his death in March at the age of 88.
As Bakhomious held the name aloft, the congregation in the packed cathedral applauded.
The formal ceremony to install Bishop Tawadros as the pope will take place on November 18, a priest said.
Pope Shenouda, 89, the Patriarch of Saint Mark Dicoeses, died last March 17 after a long struggle against illness.
Egypt's Christians praised the new pope's strong communication skills and calls for peaceful co-existence in Egyptian society.
"I am so happy," said 20-year-old Marina Nabil, speaking amid applause in the cathedral.
I have had dealings with Bishop Tawadros before and he is a very wise and calm man.
The new pope, bishop of a region in the Nile Delta north of Cairo who turned 61 on Sunday, had trained as a pharmacist before joining the priesthood.
The other two candidates were Bishop Rafael, a 54-year-old who qualified as a doctor before entering the priesthood, and Father Rafael Afamena, a 70-year-old monk who studied law before taking on holy orders.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Muslims make up 90 percent of the country's 80 million people, Copts 9 and other Christians 1 percent.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's mainstream Islamic movement, has sworn to guard the rights of Christians in the overwhelmingly majority Sunni Muslim nation.
The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party congratulated the church on the choice of the new pope.
The party chief, Saad al-Katatni, said on his Facebook page that he was "optimistic about fruitful cooperation with (the pope) as spiritual leader of Coptic brethren."