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Who are the Copts?
The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Churches in the world, founded in the first century in Egypt by Saint Mark the Apostle and writer of the second Gospel of the New Testament. A conservative Church, it has carefully preserved the Orthodox Christian faith in its earliest form, handing it down through generations, remaining true to the Apostolic doctrines and patterns of worship. The Church’s spiritual approach emphasises holiness, Divine Mysteries and fellowship, rooted firmly in the canons of the Holy Scriptures, the apostolic and Orthodox creeds, the teachings of the Church Fathers and the first three ecumenical councils.
Egypt is a land rich in history, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In His infancy, the Lord visited Egypt with His mother Saint Mary, and Saint Joseph during their flight from Israel at the instruction of the angel, and thus Egypt became their second home and a place of refuge (Matthew 2:13-14). The word ‘Copt’ is derived from the Pharaonic word ‘gypt’ and the subsequent Greek word ‘Aigyptus’ meaning ‘Egypt’. Copts are the Christian and indigenous people of Egypt, direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians, a people with perhaps the longest recorded history.
When Saint Mark travelled to Egypt on two separate mission trips, he preached the Christian message to many in the land. During his first journey, he met with Ananias, who expressed knowledge of the concept of the ‘one god’, and when this was further explained by Saint Mark within a Christian context, he accepted the faith and was baptised along with his household. Soon afterwards, many others believed and Ananias’ house became a meeting place for the faithful. After witnessing for seven years, Saint Mark was martyred in AD 68 when followers of Serapis (the Serapion-Abbis Greek Egyptian god) attacked the church in which he was praying and dragged him through the streets of Alexandria for two consecutive days.