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Two monks detained in case of Coptic bishop’s murder in Egypt

Coptic Church France
JEFF PACHOUD / AFP
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One was under investigation for breaking rules of monasticism

Egyptian authorities have detained two monks as part of their investigation into the death of a Coptic Orthodox bishop.

Bishop Epiphanius, abbot of St. Macarius Monastery north of Cairo, was found dead on July 29.

Police concluded that the 64-year-old bishop had been struck with a sharp instrument, which had left him with fractures in the back of his skull.

Vatican News reported that Wael Saad, a former monk who was known as Isaiah, confessed to using an iron bar to bludgeon the bishop. It was reported that Saad was being investigated by the bishop for violating some rules of monasticism.

In a statement, the Coptic Orthodox Church said Saad has a record of failing to abide by the monastery’s rules and that an investigative committee had previously decided to keep him out of the monastery for three years, but other monks had signed a petition calling for him to be pardoned and pledged to help him change his “wrong course.”

The Church has frozen the recruitment of new monks for the next 12 months, banned the use of social media, and instructed monks that leaving monastery grounds requires official permission, the news service said.

The Associated Press said that a second monk was in custody and being investigated. AP quoted Egyption state-run MENA news agency, which identified the 33-year-old monk by his monastic name, Valtos, and said Sunday that he is under police guard after an attempted suicide.

Bishop Epiphanius was a key figure in the modern history of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Vatican News said.

A native of Tanta, he had a degree in medicine. He became a priest in 2002 after entering the Great Monastery of Saint Macarius in 1984. Abbot Epiphanius worked on translations, from Greek to Arabic, of several books of the Bible.

A researcher and scholar, he took part in the 10th international Conference on Coptic studies in Rome in 2012. One year later, he was elected Abbot by the 100 monks of the Monastery of Saint Macarius.

His funeral was attended by Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians.

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