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Egypt's Copts to Pick a New Pope Amid Shifting Political Landscape

As Egypt’s Coptic Church selects a new pope, it also faces a changing political scene in which Islamists dominate the government. The new church leader "will have to play a balancing act," one observer notes. Meanwhile, Copts still face sporadic sectarian violence. A recent incident involved a Christian dry cleaner allegedly burning a Muslim's shirt.
The Muslim Brotherhood's President-elect Mohamed Mursi meets with a Christian delegation headed by the caretaker pope of the country's Coptic Church, Bishop Bakhomious (C), at the presidential palace in Cairo June 26, 2012. REUTERS/Middle East News Agency (MENA)/Handout (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS RELIGION) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENT

CAIRO — In a tradition dating back almost 2,000 years, Egypt’s Coptic Church has begun the laborious process of selecting a new pope amid a transitioning political landscape that throws into question the role Copts will play with Islamists now dominating the government.

The selection process, expected to yield results in November, comes four months after the death of Pope Shenouda III, leader of the Coptic Church for 40 years. The field of candidates includes 17 bishops and monks, all older than 40 and with at least 15 years in monastic life. Almost 2,600 voters have been designated, from clergy to laity, across the dioceses in Egypt and around the world. More than one-fifth of the voters are members of the Christian church abroad, an unprecedented count by this ancient institution, signaling changing times.

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