CAIRO - 4 August 2018: Egyptian bishops deactivated their social media accounts after Pope Tawadros II had issued a set of rules regulating monasticism on Thursday. Although the decision only addresses monks, the bishops’ initiative aims at setting an example of obedience to younger generations at convents.
The Pope himself deactivated his accounts. The rules consist of:
1) Halting all applications for monasticism in Orthodox convents in Egypt for a year starting August 2018.
2) Monasticism and priesthood will be withdrawn from any individuals who had established convents without acquiring consent from the patriarchy. Founding new convents will not be authorized but reviving old ones under the supervision of operating convents is allowed.
3) The number of monks in each convents would be determined according to its capabilities and circumstances in order to improve the quality of monastic work.
4) Halting monastic ordination of priests for three years.
5) Regular Christians are not allowed in any monastic ordinances in preservation of monastic traditions and solemnity.
6) Convents would receive visits and trips throughout the year. However, visit days will be restricted to Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during fasting. All churches must be cautious of visiting unauthorized places.
7) Observing monks’ commitment to eternal life and avoidance of any deviations.
8) Monasticism is deprived from monks in case of:
a) Media appearances by any means and for any reasons.
b) Getting involved in any financial deals or projects not assigned by the covenant.
c) Leaving the covenant for no reason and going on visits without prior permission from the covenant’s head.
9) Monks are not allowed to attend wreaths or funerals unless permitted by the covenant’s head with only two monks maximum allowed.
10) Monks must deactivate their social media accounts within a month and abstain from inappropriate acts or risk facing measures taken by the church.
11) All Christians should abstain from doing any financial deals or projects with monks. They must only provide donations - regardless of their type - to the head and associates of the covenant.
12) Putting into effect the monasticism and covenant life management issued by the Holy Synod in 2013.
The rules were issued four days after the murder of Head of St. Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natrun, Bishop Epiphanius. However, the Spokesperson of the Orthodox Church Priest Boules Halim denied in statements to Associated Press on Friday any relation between the decisions and the bishop’s death saying that the goal is embedding discipline in monastic life.
Halim also denied on Saturday that two priests at St. Macarius Monastery were deprived from their priesthood ranks. A photo of a paper having the logo of the Monastic Affairs Committee at the Holy Synod stating that monks Yacoub Al Makary, and Asheyaa Al Makary have been deprived of their monasticism has been circulating on Facebook.
St. Macarius Monastery announced last year that the former was expelled warning against engaging in any financial deals with him as he had collected donation to build a covenant at Wadi El-Natrun which was almost finished. It carries the name “The Virgin and Bishop Caras.”
The latter had been expelled last February by Bishop Epiphanius due to problems between them before he gathered signatures by his colleagues demanding his stay, and declared obedience to the bishop.
In case of criminal prosecution, monks are deprived of their priesthood in accordance with the Church law.
Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria led Tuesday the funeral mass of St. Macarius Monastery Head, Bishop Epiphanius - Press Photo
The late bishop was found dead and covered in blood on Sunday morning. The preliminary security investigation suggested that Bishop Epiphanius was hit by a sharp object. The body of the bishop was transferred to the morgue of the Wadi El-Natrun Central Hospital.
Suggestions that the crime is part of a terrorist attack were reportedly excluded as the bishop was not a famous public figure and did not look different from the monks inside the St. Macarius Monastery.
Monk Basil of the St. Macarius Monastery told Al-Watan that 130 monks live in the monastery and that the body of Bishop Epiphanius was discovered by Monk Gabriel. A part of Epiphanius’s brain got out of his skull which enhances the probability that the bishop was hit by a sharp object.
Monk Basil said that the crime took place at 3 a.m., adding that the monastery contacted Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria following the discovery of the crime. Basil excluded the possibility that Epiphanius was murdered by a thief, as Epiphanius did not own anything and none of his belongings were reported missing.
Basil suggested that the killer is someone inside the monastery as the killer surely knew that the monastery's passage where Epiphanius was killed is out of the surveillance cameras reach. In addition, he targeted the head of the monastery in particular.
The monk said that he cannot accuse anyone of committing the crime, saying that there were no disputes between Bishop Epiphanius and other monks or workers.
The church’s statement mentioned that the bishop’s death is being investigated by the security authorities as mystery shrouds the incident.
FILE - Bishop Epiphanius
Pope Tawadros said during the funeral that took place in the monastery in Wadi El- Natrun that Bishop Epiphanius was an ideal priest, adding that he wrote many books in different fields of knowledge.
Pope Tawadros also added that he always used to consult Bishop Epiphaniusin different issues because of his extensive knowledge. The pope pointed out that he tasked Bishop Epiphanius with attending conferences; the late bishop attended 20 conferences in five years.
"He was simple in his clothes, his house and his food. Bishop Epiphanius was very simple and he preferred to sit in the last rows,"Tawadros said.
"Despite the bitterness of pain, we raise our hands to the skies where our comfort lies,” the pope said, warning the monks against appearing on the media, and saying: "You have been cut off from the world and should not be used in any way."
The late bishop had set an example for the modest scholar and ascetic monk who continued to serve the country and the culture, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Mostafa el-Feki said, mourning murdered Bishop Epiphanius.
Wagih Mikhail, head of the Center for Middle Eastern Christianity of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, said that Bishop Epiphanius lectured Muslims and Christians in the seminary, adding that he won the hearts of his students.
When Bishop Epiphanius was invited to an international Christian conference, he came early and gave a perfect academic speech, Wagih said. On the following day, Epiphanius sat in the last row in the hall and refused to sit in one of the front rows, saying: “yesterday I was a speaker. Today I came to learn,” Wagih added describing the late bishop’s modesty.