His Holiness Pope Tawadros II honored the Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Ripon with a visit Tuesday.
The visit comes on the heels of a recent meeting with Catholic Pope Francis in Rome where the two church leaders agreed on the same calendar date for the Easter Holy Day. The Coptic Church leader made the proposal to the western church last year.
The Ripon Police SWAT team along with the Special Investigations Unit provided dignity protection with officers seen on street corners near and around the church located on Second Street in central Ripon.
Ripon Police Lt. Steve Merchant said his department would like to thank the members of the church and the community for their patience in negotiating necessary security measures that were put in place before his arrival.
The Egyptian and Eastern Rite Pope began his first United States tour with a two week visit to Texas. Pope Tawadros II is the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt. He is the leader of the 16-million- member Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt now on a whirlwind pastoral tour that has taken him from Florida to California.
The Pontiff’s visit to Ripon and throughout the U.S. has been little noticed with minute fanfare about his presence and very little media attention throughout the country. There has been growing immigration to the states, Europe and Australia by its church membership due to the growing turmoil in Egypt. Churches outside the country have been introducing English into their religious services that have traditional been conducted in Coptic and Arabic.
The pope’s religious career began late in life after he received a pharmacy degree in 1975 and managed a pharmaceutical plant before studying to become a priest. He was ordained in 1989 and elevated to a bishop status eight years later.
The 62-year-old church leader was installed as the church’s 118th pope in 2012. The church traces its heritage – its original founding – back to the apostle St. Mark in the first century followed by the separating from the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in 450 A.D. It was a year after being elevated as pope that Tawadros became only the second Coptic pope to visit a sitting Roman Catholic Pope at the Vatican in Rome in 2013.
Some 75 percent of the church’s global family remains in Egypt with as many as another million living in the U.S. The city of Houston has become the home of three Coptic churches: St. Mark that opened in 1977 along with two others having a collective membership of 5,000 members. A fourth church is reportedly being planned for Houston.
In addition to visits in Ripon and Houston the pope has visited “his children” in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville, Dallas, Arizona and lastly Los Angeles.