COPTIC YOUTH MEET POPE AT PIONEERING EVENT
Something very special took place at a recent youth conference in Cairo, Egypt. The first-ever Coptic Orthodox World Youth Week saw young people from 50 countries join together and spend time with Pope Tawadros II. By the end of the week, they were calling their host “papa” – and SAT-7 was on hand to share their joy with viewers.
The conference, held from 25 August – 1 September, was the first event of its kind ever to be held in the Middle East. To share the encouragement with viewers, SAT-7 streamed the opening and closing ceremonies live on social media, to an enthusiastic response.
A WEEK OF JOY
The conference brought together 200 young Christians from Egyptian expatriate families around the world. At the papal residence at St Bishoy Monastery in Wadi al-Natroun, the young people learned from their pope about joy in the Christian life.
“The aim of the conference is for all of us to be joyful,” said Pope Tawadros II at the opening ceremony. “Jesus’ incarnation was for our joy. It is not a worldly joy, but true heartfelt joy … accompanied by prayer and thankfulness. The Bible says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’”
A FATHER FIGURE
For many of the young people, spending time with the head of their church made a profound impression. Canadian participant Kirillos Shehata told SAT-7:
“The itinerary showed how Pope Tawadros II cares about youth and the future of the church. He spent a lot of time with us … He would say that he’s not our Pope, but our dad. He was with us all the time and even ate meals with us.”
MAKING VOICES HEARD
The itinerary included seminars in which the young people were able to ask the patriarch questions and share with him their thoughts about the church’s current challenges, as well as their vision for its future.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Marina, a participant from Australia, said:
“It makes me so grateful to know we have a leader who values our opinions and truly wants to listen to us. Just like a true dad, syedna [“our leader”], would wait outside in the hot sun to meet us … he would worry when we were coming home late. He listened to everything we had to say and allowed our voices to be heard.”
During the conference, the young people connected with their roots by visiting prominent Coptic Orthodox sites, including St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria and the “Hanging Church” in Cairo. They also toured the pyramids and the Suez Canal and met with prominent figures including the well-known Coptic entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris.
LEARNING AND GROWING
Back at the Logos Centre at the papal residence, the young people benefitted from Bible-teaching sessions.
One session had been due to be led by the late Bishop Epiphanius, who was found murdered at St Macarius Monastery earlier this year. Remarkably, the notes for the late bishop’s talk were found in his cell after his death. The message was given, in his memory, by Pope Tawadros II himself.
FRIENDS FOR LIFE
The young people responded enthusiastically to the week’s events, forming strong bonds with each other in the process.
“The youth were engaged and found the event so interesting that some of them changed their return dates,” said conference organiser Abanoub Magdy. “They were so excited, they didn’t want to leave.”
At one point, they joined together to sing a lively song of unity and joy, which was also shared with SAT-7 viewers: