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MIGRATION, COPTIC. The Copts as a community were
sedentary by nature and upbringing. They loved the land of their
birth and were averse to migration to other countries throughout
their long history. The idea of moving from their ancestral home to a
new milieu in search of better opportunities dawned upon them only
recently, after the middle of the twentieth century, when they began
under various economic and social influences to seek other
In the following sections, information is provided about specific
communities in Africa, North America, Australia, and Europe. Even
more interesting is the establishment of Coptic churches in the Arab
world. A church was founded by Pope CYRIL VI (1959-1971) in
Kuwait. In 1972 Pope SHENOUDA III consecrated a church in
Beirut, Lebanon. Other churches followed during the 1970s in
Amman (Jordan); Baghdad, Basrah, Mosul (Iraq); Dubai, Abu
Dhabi (United Arab Emirates); Masqat (Oman), and al-Manamah
(Bahrein). There is a church at Benghazi and another at Tripoli that
was presented to the Coptic community by Colonel Qaddafi in 1972.
When the Copts migrated to new countries, they immediately
sought a place of worship. Their financial resources as newcomers
in a new land being modest, they found a solution by borrowing or
buying old churches from other Christian denominations (frequently
without payment or for a nominal price). Later, with an increase in
members and more affluence, they were able to build their own
churches or to adapt the acquired ones to suit their architectural and
Priests and monks from Egypt are assigned to serve abroad.
With the exclusion of the Holy Land, where Copts struck roots
centuries ago (see JERUSALEM, COPTIC SEE OF), the Coptic
church is expanding outside Egyptian borders. Churches, small
monasteries, seminaries, and religious and cultural centers are being
established in many parts of the world. However, it is difficult to
give absolute numbers of Copts abroad, owing to the lack of
POPE SHENOUDA III
The establishment of the Coptic church in North America began
in Canada under the pontificate of Pope Cyril VI (1959-1971). The
first priest, Father Murqus, with the help of thirty-six Coptic
families already living in Toronto, established a congregation there.
The ground-breaking ceremony of the first Coptic Orthodox
Church to be built in North America took place during the visit of
Pope Shenouda III to Toronto. The Toronto congregation
participating in the event consisted of 700 Coptic families. Canada
at the time had 1,300 Coptic families.
Churches in Canada include five in Ontario (Toronto,
Mississauga, Kitchner, and Ottawa), one in Alberta (Edmonton),
three in Quebec (Montreal), and one in British Columbia
Brown, Lawrence G. The American Immigration Collection:
Cultural Conflicts and Social Adjustments. New York, 1969.
el-Masri, Iris H. The Story of the Copts. Cairo, 1956.
FAYEK M. ISHAK
United States of America
The Copts' attraction to the United States was fostered by the
American schools established in almost all important cities in Egypt
and the missionary movement that had been active in the country for
a long time. Migration to America, strictly speaking, was not
confined to the Copts. It included Muslims as well. According to the
1970 American Census (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1970, Table
192), the Egyptian immigrants totaled 31,358, of whom
approximately 25,000 were Copts. The census of successive years
showed a steady flow of refugees immigrating through Lebanon
under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, the Catholic
Missionary Services, and other organizations. More immigrants
came to join already naturalized American citizens from Egypt. In
1973, thousands of Copts became citizens of the United States and
were consequently instrumental in bringing over more members of
their families. The increase in the Coptic population is reflected in
the number of Coptic churches in the United States. These rose from
two churches in 1970 to forty-one churches in 1989. The number of
Copts in 1989 was estimated to be around 160,000-180,000.
The first priest appointed to the United States (September 1970)
was Father Gabriel Abdelsayed for the first church in the United
States, in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Coptic churches in the United States include nine in California
(one in San Francisco and eight in Los Angeles; there is also a small
monastery in Barstow), one in Colorado (Englewood), four in
Florida (Plant City, Orlando, Pompano Beach, and Daytona Beach),
one in Georgia (Atlanta), two in Illinois (Chicago), one in
Massachusetts (Nattick), one in Michigan (Detroit), one in
Minnesota (St. Paul), one in Missouri (St. Louis), four in New
Jersey (two in Jersey City and one each in East Brunswick and East
Rutherford), six in New York (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island,
Long Island, Pearl River, and Rochester), one in North Carolina
(Raleigh), three in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Lancaster, and
Pittsburgh), one in Rhode Island (Providence), three in Texas (San
Antonio, Dallas, and Bel Air), one in Virginia (Falls Church), and
one in Washington state (Seattle). Some groups are not yet large
enough to justify a church. In this case they gather in one place and
a Coptic priest from the nearest area holds a mass for them at regular
intervals. Examples are Baltimore (Maryland), and Hamden
Brown, Lawrence, G. The American Immigration Collection:
Cultural Conflicts and Social Adjustments. New York, 1969.
Constant, H. J., Jr., Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.
New York, 1989.
Modern Christianity in Africa owes its inception to the European
and American missionaries who came in the train of the white
colonialists. With the disappearance of colonial regimes and the rise
of independent nation-states, the missionaries began to disappear.
The leadership of the churches was assumed by Africans who were
educated and trained abroad. However, many Africans separated
themselves from the missionary churches and/or formed their own
indigenous churches known as African Independent Churches (more
than six thousand churches all over Africa). Their leaders led their
native constitutents into a tribal and cultural form of worship that
mixed native elements with Christian teachings.
Since Christianity in Africa originated through Saint Mark, the
Cyrene-born apostle who organized the Coptic church in Egypt in
the first century, the Coptic church could fill the vacuum created by
the exit of the foreign missionaries. With the background of a longstanding
history of an established ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX
CHURCH the Copts were encouraged to enter the African field,
with their labors initially concentrated in Kenya.
So it was that the Coptic church was established in the 1970s
with the consecration in Cairo of a bishop of African affairs, to
reside in Nairobi. On 13 June 1976, Father Antonios al-Baramusi, a
monk of DAYR AL-BARAMUS and formerly a practicing
physician as well as a deacon and layman, was elevated and given
the name Bishop Antonius Marcus. At first, his flock consisted of
seventy-five Copts of Egyptian origin and 2,000 Ethiopians. Aided
by two Coptic monks, Bishop Antonius was able to gain 4,100
converts of Kenyan origin and to serve many newcomers from
With the steady expansion of Coptic Christianity in East Africa,
numerous churches were founded in various areas of that vast
country. At present, the Coptic churches number twelve, including a
Cathedral of Saint Mark and a Church of Saint Antony in Nairobi.
The remaining churches are evenly distributed in the western
Nyanza provinces around Lake Victoria and the Ukambani area.
Furthermore, the Copts have a church in Harari (Zimbabwe) and one
in Lusaka (Zambia).
The services are conducted in the local vernacular and the Coptic
liturgies have been translated into five native dialects. In addition to
priests from Egypt, native Kenyans are now being ordained as
Two modest beginnings of monastic institutions have been
established in the diocese of Africa: the Monastery of Saint Antony
in Nairobi and Saint Menas' Monastery in Ebusakami in the Western
Each church has its Sunday school. Each of the monasteries
includes a cultural center as well as a modest theological college and
a modest vocational center for the training of women.
BISHOP ANTONIUS MARCUS
Coptic migration to Australia was precipitated by circumstances
associated with the economic policies of the Nasser regime. It was
natural for the Copts to envisage migrating to Europe and America,
but with the difficulties that arose in accepting immigrants to the
Western European countries as well as to the United States and
Canada, Copts began to look to the still-open door in Australia.
Emigration of Copts to Australia had started in a small way as early
as 1964, and gradually reached its peak in 1969. They concentrated
along the populous eastern coast where they numbered
approximately 35,000. In 1969, the Copts established their first
church in the city of Sydney, which they dedicated to Saint Mark.
Other churches followed. In 1989, Australia counted fourteen
churches: six in Sydney, four in Melbourne, and one each in
Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, and Canberra. The concentration of Copts
in the large city of Melbourne led to the establishment of a Coptic
monastery in that area.
For centuries the Christian faith in France had kept close ties
with the Holy Land, Egypt, and the desert fathers. Beginning in the
fourth century, the maritime connections between Alexandria and
Marseilles helped the infiltration of Alexandrian Christian thought
It was at the beginning of the fifth century that John CASSIAN,
imbued with Egyptian monastic ideals, arrived in Marseilles. Two of
his books, the Institutes and the Conferences, in which he wrote
about the life, customs, and wisdom of the desert fathers, were the
result of his stay among them. A testimony of his influence still
exists in Saint Victor in Marseilles and the monastery of Lérins on
the island of Saint Honorat (opposite Cannes); Pachomian
monasticism inspired the rule of these establishments as well as the
rules of many others across Europe. This influence continued for
On Pentecost 1974 (2 June), assisted by seventeen bishops and
archbishops of the Holy Synod, Pope Shenouda III canonically
established the Eparchy of France by ordaining two European
monks who had shared the life of their desert brothers in DAYR
ANBA BISHOI. The monk Marcos from Amsterdam was made
bishop of Marseilles, Toulon, and all of France. The monk
Athanasios, a French national, received the title of chorepiscopus of
the city of Paris.
Five spiritual centers have been established since. The Coptic
Orthodox Hermitage of Saint Mark, with a chapel dedicated to Our
Lady of Zaytun, is the seat of the bishop in Le Revest-les-Eaux near
Toulon. In Plessis l'Eveque, near Meaux, the Priory of Saint Mark is
the seat of the chorepiscopus; its chapel is dedicated to the Mother
of God and Saint Mark. In Paris, the Coptic parish of Saint Mary
and Saint Mark holds services in the crypt of the Church of Saint
Sulpice. In Marseilles the parish of Saint George and Saint Mark
was founded in 1983; mass is held in the Church of Saint Nicholas.
A small private chapel is also in use in Tamaris-sur-Mer near
Toulon; it is dedicated to Saint Antony and Saint Michael. The
largest Coptic congregation is in Paris with over 700 members.
Marseilles and Toulon follow with around 400 members each. With
the exception of the chapel at Le Revest-les-Eaux, the Copts in
France celebrate mass in host churches.
Chadwich, O. John Cassian, a Study in Primitive Monasticism.
Cristini, L. Jean Cassien ou la spiritualité du desert, 2 vols. Paris,
PIERRE DE BOGDANOFF
The Coptic church in Germany was inaugurated in March 1975
by Pope Shenouda III, in response to an appeal from the growing
Coptic community in the Federal Republic. Father Salib Suryal was
delegated as its first minister in Frankfurt, where the Copts secured a
historic Evangelical church nearby, known as the Bethlehem
Church, built in 1799. They named it the Coptic Orthodox Church of
Saint Mark. Another church followed at Stuttgart and was dedicated
to Saint George. At present, Germany has a total of seven Coptic
churches. Besides the above there are churches at Düsseldorf
(dedicated to the Virgin Mary), Munich (a gift from the Roman
Catholic church, which was dedicated to Saint Menas), Hannover (a
gift from the Evangelical Protestants, dedicated to Saint Athanasius
the Apostolic), Berlin (dedicated to Saint Antony and Saint
Shenute), and Hamburg (dedicated to Saint Peter, Seal of the
The Copts in Germany in the late 1980s consisted of
approximately 500 families.
A Coptic center at Kresselbach near Frankfurt became the
nucleus of a monastic institution.
The modern history of Egypt has fostered closer cultural
relations with Britain than with any other Western country. From the
early decades of the twentieth century, Egyptian students were sent
to pursue higher studies in British universities. A good proportion of
those students were Copts who subsequently were able to secure
positions in the medical profession and various academic institutions
throughout Britain. This proved a great incentive for many to seek
permanent residence in Britain. This small community of expatriates
grew considerably during the 1970s as a result of the easing of
emigration restrictions previously imposed by the Egyptian
The first recorded Coptic liturgy to be celebrated in Britain took
place in London on Friday, 10 August 1954. The celebrant on that
occasion was Father Makari al-Suryani (later to be ordained Bishop
SAMUEL). The liturgy was held at a Greek Orthodox church in
Efforts toward more organized religious activities were
intensified in the 1960s. But it was not until 1971 that the first
Coptic priest in England, Father Antuniyus al-Suryani (later Bishop
Bakhumius of Beheira) celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint
Andrew's Church, Holborn, London, by special arrangement with its
A Coptic church in London was realized in 1976 when the
church council purchased a church in Kensington. In January 1978,
after it had been redesigned into a proper Coptic church, the church
was formally consecrated and dedicated to Saint Mark. Another
church in Croydon, south of London, was acquired in the late 1980s.
With the increase in the number of Coptic residents in England,
other churches were later established in Manchester and Solihull,
(Birmingham). In addition the clergy take turns visiting smaller
communities in other areas such as Cardiff, Glasgow (Scotland), and
Dublin (Irish Republic).
The number of Copts in Switzerland in 1989 was about 700.
They live mainly in Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Lucerne, and
In 1981 Pope Shenouda III ordained a monk, Serapion Anba
Bischoy, from the Anba Bishoi Monastery, as the first priest of the
Coptic church in Switzerland. When he later was consecrated bishop
and moved to Cairo, others were appointed to replace him. With the
exception of Geneva, where the Copts rent a government-owned
church, the other congregations use mainly Catholic churches.
It is difficult to follow Coptic immigrants to other countries of
Europe, since there is no official register to indicate their continuous
movements. However, Coptic communities are known to exist in
Austria, where congregations meet regularly in Vienna, Linz,
Klagenfurt, and Graz. The Copts in Amsterdam purchased a church
that they dedicated to Saint Mark. A Coptic church was established
in Milan in 1986, while small congregations are found in Athens and
Madrid. One Coptic church exists in Stockholm and another in