Coptic Orthodox Bishop Paul describes upcoming ‘alter lottery,’ slated for Sunday, by which Egypt’s next Coptic pope will be chosen.
At a Thursday press conference, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Paul provided details about the final stage of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s papal elections, which will involve what is known as the ‘alter lottery.’
One of three Coptic clergymen who on Monday were voted into the final round will be chosen by the lottery, which is slated for Sunday, 4 November.
Bishop Paul, who is supervising the electoral process, explained that the alter lottery would begin with the entry of the church’s archbishops and bishops – headed by interim pope Archbishop Pachomios – into Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Abbasiya.
Archbishop Pachomios will then place three ballots bearing the names of the three candidates inside a transparent box, which will then be sealed with wax and set at the cathedral’s altar, Bishop Paul explained.
A television camera will remain focused on the box throughout the process to ensure transparency, he added.
One of 12 Coptic deacons between five and eight years of age will then be chosen at random. After being blindfolded, Bishop Paul said, the selected deacon will then choose one of the three ballots, thus determining the church’s next patriarch.
Father Angelos Ishak Masoud, secretary to the interim pope, told Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news website that the alter lottery represented the preferred method of determining “God’s choice” for the papal position.
He went on to note that the word “lottery” in Greek meant “a divine judgment independent of human influence.”
The lottery, however, is not without controversy, with some critics within the church saying the practice has no spiritual or legal basis. They point out that the method has been used to select a papal successor only ten times since first having been introduced by the church in the eighth century.
The three final candidates are: Bishop Raphael, auxiliary bishop of central Cairo and Heliopolis and former aide to the late Pope Shenouda III; Bishop Tawadros, auxiliary bishop for Beheira and auxiliary to Archbishop Pachomios; and Father Raphael Ava Mina, a monk at Alexandria’s Mar Mina Monastery.