Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - The church dedicated to Mar Mina, located in the Egyptian city of Giza which belongs to the Coptic Orthodox Church, will henceforth become the first church in Egypt offered for free use to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. The voluntary transfer of the place of worship acquires relevance in the light of the ecclesial disputes and conflicts that have long been tearing apart the relations between the Orthodox Churches, and confirms the solidity of the fraternal relations existing between the Coptic Orthodox Church, led by Patriarch Tawadros II, and the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias.
On June 25, the Russian Metropolitan Leonid Gorbachev, previously appointed Patriarchal Exarch of the Russian Orthodox Church for North Africa, celebrated the first divine liturgy in the church of Mar Mina. Previously, Metropolitan Leonid had been received in Cairo by Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, and reported that he had addressed to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi the request to reserve in the territory of the new administrative capital a site on which to build at the expense of the Patriarchate of Moscow a church and a center for the pastoral care of Russian migrants and tourists in Egypt.
The not only symbolic value of the handover of the church of Mar Mina can be seen in the light of the clash that in recent years has pitted the Patriarchate of Moscow against the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria - led by Patriarch Theodoros II - and canonical and pastoral initiatives undertaken by the Russian Orthodox Church on the African continent.
The deterioration of relations between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Patriarchate of Alexandria is also linked to the general situation of conflict that has been tearing up Orthodoxy for years, and which had as its epicenter the clash of ecclesial origin that exploded in Ukraine, well before the beginning of the Russian military invasion of Ukrainian territory.
In 2019, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria recognized the proclaimed autocephaly (independence) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, removed from the canonical dependence of the Moscow Patriarchate, with the recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In response to the choice of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Moscow had solemnly asked Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and his Church "to renounce support for the Ukrainian schism". Then, on December 29, 2021, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church had created its own patriarchal exarchate in Africa, divided into two dioceses, one for the north (based in Cairo) and the other for the south of the continent. This move was harshly condemned by the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which claims its canonical jurisdiction over all the Orthodox communities present on the African continent.
Now, with the decision to entrust its own church for free use to the Russian exarchate created on the African continent, the Coptic Church confirms the relations of closeness and ecclesial collaboration that bind it to the Patriarchate of Moscow, also entrusted to the work of a joint theological dialogue committee instituted by the two ecclesial groups. Metropolitan Leonid, in the statements released to the Egyptian media, made it known that in response to the generosity of the Coptic Church, the Patriarchate of Moscow is also doing everything possible "to make Egyptian Christians living in Russia feel at home, here in Egypt". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 1/7/2022)