The Monastic and Monastic Affairs Committee of the Holy Synod, under the chairmanship of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and in the presence of H.G. Bishop Daniel, General Secretary of the Holy Synod, and 19 of our fathers, the Metropolitans and Bishops, held a special session to discuss the discipline of monastic life in the light of the painful incident and the martyrdom of His Grace Bishop Epiphanius. After prayer and extensive discussions, the following twelve decrees were issued:
Decisions of the Synodal Committee for Monasticism & Monasteries Affairs – August 2, 2018
To cease ordaining or accepting novices into monasticism in all Coptic Orthodox Monasteries/Convents within Egypt for one year, effective August 2018.
Anyone who has established a monastery without the approval of the Patriarchate will be stripped of their rank, either monks or priests, and it will be announced publicly. Also, approval for any new monasteries/convents will not be granted unless for reviving ancient monasteries, while being guided and under the care of a recognized monastery/convent.
To determine the number of monks/nuns each monastery/convent can accommodate considering its conditions and capabilities, and not exceeding this number to ensure regulating and improving the monastic life.
To cease ordaining monks into the priesthood ranks (Presbyter & Hegumen) for three years.
To ban all laymen from attending monks’/nuns’ ordinations to keep the reverence and the essence of true monasticism.
The monasteries/convents to receive trips and visits throughout the year except during the Advent Fast and Great Lent in which visits are only allowed on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, while warning against visiting unrecognized locations, which is the responsibility of each diocese and church.
To focus and care for the monastic life of monks/nuns and their dedication to their eternal life for which they chose to leave [the world] and never return.
Any monk/nun who does any of the following will risk being investigated and stripped of his/her monastic or priesthood rank, and it will be announced publicly:
Appearance in media in any way, shape or form
Involvement in any financial dealings or projects without delegation from the monastery/convent
Presence outside the monastery/convent without justification, and leaving with prior permission from the Abbot/Abbess.
To not permit monks/nuns to attend Crowning Ceremonies or Funerals except through permission from the Abbot/Abbess to a maximum of two monks/nuns [at once].
To give monks/nuns one month to shut down all social media pages and/or accounts and to refrain willingly from participation in any such behavior, which is unfitting to the monastic life, lest the Church takes measures against them.
To appeal to all Copts to not engage in any financial dealings or projects with monks or nuns, and to avoid presenting any individual or financial donations except through the monastery/convent leadership or those who represent it.
Activation of the Guide for Monasticism & Managing the Monastic Life that was established by the holy Synod in June 2013, which is the responsibility of the monastery/convent leadership
His Holiness ratified all these decisions to be decrees, being the Head of the Coptic Orthodox Monasteries.
On Thursday, May 28, 2015, the Coptic Holy Synod convened with the presence of 115 members of the distinguished metropolitans and bishops, and was presided over by H.H. Pope Tawadros II and H.G. Bishop Rafeal, the Secretary of the Holy Synod.
Holy Synod Decrees – May 28, 2015
Recognizing The Monastery of the Virgin Mary & Archangel Michael for nuns in Dairut.
An official letter to His Holiness requesting the approval for each novice to take the monastic vow must be submitted by the Abbot of the monastery.
A “Monastery Center” is an administrative and lodging center for monks and nuns, with certain health or social conditions. The center should not get involved in any ecclesiastic services or pastoral care except the divine liturgy.
Establishing a center for a monastery requires approval and written permission from His Holiness the Pope and/or the Bishop of the Diocese as to where the center will be established. Abbotts are to rectify situations that contradict this decision.
Churches are obligated to follow the usual rituals of the Resurrection Re-enacting without the use of any special effects of sound, light, 3D, special theatrical effects or fog, etc.
Lately there has been spreading of writings attributed directly or indirectly to His Holiness Pope Cyril VI, who was canonized by our church during the Holy Synod’s assembly in June 2013. In these books, the writer uses phrases like: “I partook of the Holy Sacrament before the creation of the world;” and “not by repentance or by good deeds we reach the Kingdom” also “Keeping the commandments does not lead to salvation;” and “Call on Lord Jesus and do not call St. Mary;” as well as “We will not be rewarded for good deeds and will not be punished for evil deeds.” These statements and what they represent can never be said, explained or endorsed by the departed Saint and Pope. It is for this we caution against such writings and enforce banning its distribution in the libraries of our churches and monasteries.
Recommendations of the Holy Synod Committees, May 2015
Committee of Public Relations:
Establishing branches for “Bayt Al A’ela Al Misriya” (Home of the Egyptian Family) in each diocese.
Encouraging the establishment of a financial support fund for Crisis management.
Establishing a Committee for Public Relations in each diocese.
Committee of Family Affairs:
Encourage couples considering marriage to attend a course in family counseling before marriage.
Committee of Pastoral Care and Service:
Review the regulations of chanters and celibate consecration for a vote next November.
Committee of Media and Information:
His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy is selected as the secretary of the Satellite Channels Committee.
Establishing a subcommittee for printed and electronic Media. His Grace Bishop Thomas is selected as its secretary.
Committee of Faith, Education and Legislation:
To collaborate with the committee of the Churches Abroad to produce specialized and extensively researched publications to address and answer current questions among our youth in Egypt and abroad.
Committee of the Churches Abroad:
To highlight the identity of the Coptic Orthodox Church in all publications, documents, releases and television programs and focus on the attribute “Coptic”, emphasizing its title of “Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria”
To elect the Holy Synod Secretariat Committee during the Holy Synod session convening in May 2016. It has been decided that the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church convenes once every year before the Feast of Pentecost and the seminar for the bishops takes place once a year before the Nativity fast.
On Thursday, February 20, 2014, The Holy Synod of The Coptic Orthodox Church held a historic session headed by H.H. Pope Tawadros II and voted in favor of the amendments to the bylaws of 1957 governing the selection and election of a new patriarch. On December 26th and 27th, a primary draft was prepared by the patriarchal nomination committee and it was drafted, composed and discussed in two preliminary sessions under the supervision of H.E. Metropolitan Pakhomios who was assigned by H.H Pope Tawadros II. It was a special session considering that The Holy Synod holds two regular annual sessions, once before Pentecost and the other after the Pope’s ordination anniversary.
H.G. Bishop Thomas said that an official English translation would be prepared and distributed. Below is a summary of the amendments and key points, courtesy of LACopts.org, as prepared by H.G. Bishop Serapion:
I. A Historical Session
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, under the auspices of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, agreed on new regulations for electing the Pope, who is the Patriarch of the See of St. Mark the Apostle, the Archbishop of Alexandria, and the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church worldwide.
In a special session that lasted seven hours, the Holy Synod voted on the following regulations which were presented by the Committee for Nominations. Each member of the Holy Synod voted on each of the 36 articles found in the new regulations. These 36 articles are organized into 6 chapters:
Chapter I contains Articles 1 and 2, which are basic articles. It also deals with the declaration of the vacancy of the Patriarchal See in Articles 3-5.
Chapter II deals with the formation and competence of a Special Committee to nominate the Pope as represented in Articles 6-7.
Chapter III deals with issues related to the nomination of the Pope as represented in Articles 8-12.
Chapter IV deals with the registration of voters in the nomination process as represented in Articles 13-18.
Chapter V deals with the regulations of the nomination process as represented in Articles 19-25.
Chapter VI presents general provisions in Articles 26-36.
II. Preparing the New Regulations
His Holiness Pope Tawadros II issued a papal decree to the Committee for Nominations headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Pakhomios to prepare new regulations to choose the Pope. It was this very Committee that managed the process of nomination and choosing the Pope after the departure of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III of thrice-blessed memory.
The Committee held several meetings to examine the previous experiences of electing the Pope and the regulations of 1957, which needed revision. The Committee received proposals from the members of the Holy Synod and reviewed the process in other churches. It then clarified its goal of establishing new regulations that would be in agreement with the Canons of the Holy Church and the ancient Tradition while remaining compatible with modern realities, especially in light of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s global presence today.
After holding several sessions, the Committee sent five suggested versions of these regulations to the members of the Holy Synod for their review and comments. The Secretary of the Holy Synod compiled a suggested two proposals based on the work of the Committee and feedback from the members of the Holy Synod. From December 26-27, 2013, a special meeting of the Committee, the Secretary of the Holy Synod, and any member of the Holy Synod who wished to attend, was convened to reconcile the two proposals into one proposal that was presented to the Holy Synod at a general meeting on February 20, 2014. Members of the Holy Synod discussed and voted on each article separately until the new regulations were approved.
III. A Review of the New Regulations
Here are a few important points concerning the new regulations.
Article 1 of the new regulations specify that they are used to choose the spiritual leadership of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and abroad, and as such, regulate a uniquely religious decision, as opposed to political or otherwise. Article 2 specifies that the Presidential Decree for the choice of the Patriarch is only an accreditation of the religious choice made by the Church through the providence of God in a public altar lot that occurs in Egypt between three nominees elected by the clergy and representatives of the laity.
The new regulations settled the question of whether the altar lot should be used. It is now mandatory as a prerequisite in the process of choosing the Patriarch.
Article 2 presented an ecclesiastically correct definition of the person and office of the Patriarch. It is the same definition mentioned in Article 49 and based on Canon 6 of the Ecumenical Council of Nicæa. It states, “The Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of the See of St. Mark for the Coptic Orthodox is the bishop of Alexandria and Cairo, and because he is the bishop of the great city of Alexandria, he is the Archbishop of the Episcopate of St. Mark according to the canons of the Holy Council of Nicæa.”In light of this definition, the regulations confirm that the choice of the Patriarch, the Archbishop of the Episcopate of St. Mark, is essentially the choice of the bishop of Alexandria. Accordingly, all of the canons related to choosing the bishop of a diocese, and in particular, transferring a bishop from one diocese to another, apply in the process of choosing the Patriarch.
Article 8 limits the choice of nominees to monks and general bishops only. It prohibits the nomination of metropolitans and diocesan bishops except if it is an absolute necessity in conformity with the ecclesiastical canons. The new regulations reflect several ecclesiastical canons, which prohibit transferring a bishop from one diocese to another, such as Canon 15 of the Ecumenical Council of Nicæa, Canon 21 of the Council of Antioch of 341 A.D., Canon 1 of the Council of Sardica of 347 A.D., the canons of Pope Mikhail, the 46th Pope of Alexandria (c. 744-768 A.D.), and the decision of the Holy Synod of 1873 A.D. on this matter. The regulations also take into consideration the canons that permit the transfer of a bishop to another diocese in special circumstances, such as Canon 14 of the Holy Apostles.
Article 15 of the new regulations deals with the question of who may participate in the process of choosing the Patriarch and expanded the participation of clergy and laity alike. It provides that all priests in Egypt and abroad who were ordained before the departure of the Patriarch may participate in the process. It also conferred a specific number of votes to laity in each diocese commensurate with the number of clergy in that diocese. Moreover, it provides that all priest-monks, official consecrated deacons, archdeacons, and deaconnesses may participate in the process. The same is true for the professors of official clerical schools. As for nuns, the new regulations permit ten percent of the nuns of each convent to participate in the process.
Because of the geographical growth of the Coptic Orthodox Church worldwide, the new regulations enabled the formation of subcommittees to conduct the elections inside Egypt and abroad.
The new regulations confirmed that the final list of nominees for Patriarch must include 5-7 candidates.They also provide for special circumstances in case the election could not take place with the requisite five candidates (e.g., the departure or withdrawal of one or more candidates). In this case, for example, the election would be held between the remaining candidates and the altar lot choose the Patriarch from the last three candidates. If it was impossible to reach three nominees for whatever reason, the altar lot would choose the Patriarch from the two candidates who received the most votes in the preceding election. If the nomination process produced only three names, there would be no election, and the altar lot would be held immediately. Finally, if the nomination process produced only one nominee for whatever reason, he would be immediately enthroned as Patriarch according to the will of God without election or altar lot.