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Choosing the Patriarch: Lessons from the History of our Glorious Church

These days, in every Divine Liturgy, we ask God to “remember the soul of the Thrice-Blessed Pope Abba Shenouda III. Graciously, O Lord, repose his soul in the bosom of our Holy Fathers and grant us a righteous shepherd who will shepherd Your people in purity and righteousness.” While praying, we must also take heed of the Canons, the Holy Tradition, and the history of the Church in choosing the person who will sit on the See of St. Mark. I wish to present some lessons from the history of our glorious Church in choosing the Patriarch, and specifically, choosing the Patriarch from among the diocesan metropolitans and bishops. I present this research with the prayer and wish that God may lead us to remain faithful to the Holy Canons and Tradition established in the Church.

When we consider the history of choosing the Patriarch in our Church, we find diversity in the ways in which he was chosen. In some instances, a Patriarch chose his successor while in others there was a consensus between the bishops and laity concerning a specific person. In yet other instances, the Patriarch was chosen by an election that was followed by an altar lot. The Patriarch was also chosen from men of different vocations. The Church chose men who were professors of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, monks, and even laymen. Despite this diversity, the obvious truth is that the Church never chose a patriarch from the diocesan metropolitans and bishops except during a very short and recent time period that did not exceed 30 years between 1928-1956. The Patriarchs during that time were His Holiness Pope Youannes XIX (1928-42), the 113th Patriarch; His Holiness Pope Macarius III (1944-45), the 114th Patriarch; and His Holiness Pope Yusab II (1946-56), the 115th Patriarch.

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Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

July 19, 2012