It is the 4th of November 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1952.
World War II was over, and much of the world dealt with new realities that stemmed from new borders and new alliances. One of the post-war hotspots would be Israel's new nation and the antagonism from her new neighbors in the Middle East. In 1948, the Arab-Israeli war revealed a divide between Western allies and a growing pan-Arabic sentimentality in the region. In 1952, the coup of General Gamal Abdel Nasser placed Egypt in the sphere of Muslim Arabic nations. This helped to jolt the country from the last bonds of British control. Egypt, as any kind of "western" center, was over.
Egypt had, of course, been a center of Western Civilization from about 3000 BC. After their supporting role early in the Hebrew Bible, the Egyptians would eventually be overrun by the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. However, from the earliest years of Christianity, and despite foreign subjugation, Egypt and Alexandria primarily remained a vibrant and essential hub for Christian thought. But in 642, the Arab conquest of Egypt changed its fortunes for centuries.
Quick note: when we talk about Egyptian Christians, we have a particular word for it—Copts. It comes from the Greek word for the Egyptians but came to represent the specifically Christian Egyptians after the Arab conquest. Oversimplifying things, they had a period of relative peace under the Mamelukes in the Middle Ages and then, in that fateful year of 1517, were absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. The formerly mighty kingdom was granted some independence, but it could not repel Napoleon's forces during his conquest. This led them to accept British help. The help came with an extra helping of influence and a side of diplomatic bullying.
The British were doing their very 19th-century British things to Egypt and, by 1914, had declared it a protectorate. The Ottoman Empire ceased to be after the end of the First World War, and with its demise, Egypt found itself a protectorate and semi-independent. That 1952 Nasser coup settled it.
And it was on this, the 4th of November in 1952, that a young Christian couple outside of Cairo gave birth to a son, Wagih Sobhi Baki Soliman. Soliman would grow up in the Coptic culture as a devout Christian. He attended the University of Alexandria in 1975 and graduated with a degree in Pharmacology. Soliman managed a pharmaceutical company while simultaneously earning a degree in theology from the Clerical College in Alexandria.
He worked for both the World Health Organization and entered monastic study. He took the name Tawadros and was ordained in 1990. In 1997 he was made Bishop of Beheira by then Coptic Pope Shenouda III. Upon Shenouda's death in 2012, Tawadros was elected 118th pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the see of St. Mark and leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It was a difficult time for Egyptians as the Arab Spring had broken out across the Middle East. Pope Tawadros encouraged the young people protesting for change and stood against the regime of Mohamed Morsi. Pope Tawadros has his share of controversies as the head of an autocephalous church but remains popular amongst his Coptic flock. Pope of Alexandria Tawadros II, or Wagih Sobhi Baki Soliman, was born on this, the 4th of November, in 1952.
The reading for today is from perhaps the most rascal-y of all the early Coptic Christians. This is Origen, from his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans:
"I do not deny in the least that the rational nature will always keep its free will, but I declare that the power and effectiveness of Christ's cross and of his death, which he took upon himself toward the end of the aeons, are so great as to be enough to set right and save, not only the present and the future aeon, but also all the past ones, and not only this order of us humans, but also the heavenly orders and powers."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 4th of November 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who sphinx he's in de Nile, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.