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Coptic Orthodox embark on “Virgin Mary’s fast” as monasticism begins renewal

Virginie Nguyen | AFP

Time of prayer leads up to Orthodox celebration of the Assumption on August 22

Coptic Orthodox Christians around the world are offering the “Virgin Mary’s fast,” with the special intention of the difficulties the Church is facing after the assassination of Anba Epiphanios, the bishop-abbot killed in the monastery of Saint Macarius on the morning of July 29.

The time of prayer and fasting will end on August 22, when the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

It is thought that the murder of the abbot can be traced to a former monk and another member of his own monastery.

Meanwhile, in his last weekly sermon on Wednesday, Pope Tawadros used words of gratitude regarding the reality of Coptic monasticism, saying he was confident that the monastic communities will remain in the Egyptian deserts “until the end of the world,” and will continue to offer future generations the riches of their spiritual gifts, which cannot be dispelled by weaknesses, errors, sins and crimes of individual persons.

“The Christian faith” said Pope Tawadros “is guarded by the Lord, and does not need other protectors.”

Last week, Pope Tawadros ratified 12 rules to renew monastic life in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Among the new stipulations is that the monks and nuns should not have personal accounts on social media or manage personal blogs.

Coptic monasticism has been reborn in recent decades, leading to a renewal of faith for many Egyptian Copts, particularly within the struggles they face against Egypt’s Muslim majority. But amidst the growth has come some deviations.

The 12 measures adopted by Tawadros aim to guard monastic life in its traditional form of seclusion from the worldly frenzy, marked by moments of prayer, work and silence.

It is said that the monks’ participation in social media has sometimes become an instrument to spread “confused ideas” and foster personal polemics and pseudo-doctrinal disputes.

Among the regulations are also rules regarding the creation of new monasteries and the maximum number of monks and nuns that can be in each, stricter rules on times of visitors, and the prohibition of individual nuns and monks receiving donations. There will also be a suspension of the acceptance of new candidates for monastic life for a year, and the halt of the priestly ordinations of the monks for three years.

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