The term “Coptic” is derived from the Greek “Aigyptos” meaning “Egyptian”. When the Arabs arrived in Egypt in the seventh century, they called the Egyptians “qibt”. Thus the Arabic word “qibt” came to mean both “Egyptians” and “Christians”.
The term “Orthodoxy” here refers to the preservation of the “original faith” or “correct belief”.
The Coptic Church is not non-denominational it is pre-denominational. It was established in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by St. Mark the Evangelist in the city of Alexandria around 43 A.D. The church adheres to the Nicene Creed (which can be found below). Our church is an apostolic church, which means we worship and practice a faith that has been passed on directly from the apostles of Christ.
Scripture makes up a large proportion of our belief and worship but we also believe in the Traditions of the Church. It says in the bible that ‘Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.’ John 21:25. These ‘many other things’ and the way that the disciples lived out there faith is what the Coptic Orthodox Church treasures.
The current leader of the Church is His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark and All Africa. The Church is led by His Holiness and the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Papal Seat is currently located in Abbassiya, Cairo. Copts are native to Egypt and represent around 15% of the Egyptian population, with around 16 million members worldwide. The Coptic Orthodox Church is by far the largest Church in the Middle East, where 4 out of 5 Christians in the region are Egyptian.
St Mark is regarded as the first Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He converted the first Egyptian Christians from paganism, and anointed priests and bishops throughout Egypt. He was eventually martyred by the Egyptian religious authorities who were angered that he turned people away from the idols of the time. St Ananias took St Mark’s place in leading the Church, becoming the Second Pope of Alexandria.
St Mark set up the Catechetical School of Alexandria, the first specifically Christian educational establishment in the world. This was one of the two highest educational sources of authority in early Christianity, the other being the School of Antioch, and influenced early Christian thought.
The Church suffered heavy persecution under the Roman Empire, then again under the early Islamic Caliphates. The Coptic Church is called the “Church of the Martyrs” due to the hundreds of thousands of martyrs it has produced throughout the centuries, and the Church’s tradition of preserving the stories of these martyrs, along with Saints, in the Coptic Synaxarium.
When the heresy of Arius arose, the Church took part in the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, A.D. 325, which led to the production of the Nicene Creed, which is recited throughout the Christian world to this day. The Creed was largely based on the teachings of Saint Athanasius the Apostolic, who became the 20th Pope of Alexandria, and who when pushed to give up his beliefs and teachings early on in the rise of the heresy, famously said, “If the whole world is against me, then I am against the whole world”.
Monasticism was founded in Egypt by St Antonious the Great, the Father of Monasticism. This Saint founded the principles and rituals of monasticism throughout the world, which until now are practised by monks throughout Egypt’s monasteries and around the globe.
The Coptic Orthodox Church observes the Seven Sacraments:
Unction of the Sick
On Communion, the Church believes in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine to the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church also celebrates Seven Major and Seven Minor Feasts of the Lord
The Seven Major Feasts
The Seven Minor Feasts
Circumcision of our Lord
Jesus’ Entry into the Temple
The Holy Family’s Flight to Egypt
Wedding of Cana at Galillee
The Transfiguration of the Christ
THE NICENE CREED
We believe in one God; God the Father the Pantocrator, Who created heaven and earth, and all things seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; True God of True God, begotten, not created; of One Essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us, men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, and became Man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures. He ascended into the heavens; He sits at the right hand of His Father; and He is coming again in His glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
Yes, we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father; who, with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets and in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, we confess one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the coming age.