Our Message to His Holiness

Summary

+ We declare our full submission to His Holiness the Pope wherever we go, whatever situation we are in, as he is our father, and we are thankful to be members of the Church, the body of Christ

+ Our everlasting loyalty is to Christ, the Church, and Her hierarchy, led by His Holiness the Pope

+ The reason for this letter is to present a voice of the next generation of laity who is concerned about the future of the Coptic Church in New Jersey without an official diocese and enthroned bishop, according to the vision of His Holiness the Pope

+ The youth seek a diocesan bishop, who would live in an established manner among his flock in all of New Jersey, and who can successfully implement his vision towards expanding services, which are similarly provided in the other American dioceses

+ The youth seek a diocesan bishop who will unite the churches and the clergy who have separate goals, visions, and services, in all areas of New Jersey—both north and south, without any exception

+ The youth seek a strong diocesan bishop to manage finances for all the churches in the diocese, without restrictions, to better allocate funds as he sees fit for specific goals

+ The youth seek a diocesan bishop who will restore proper ecclesiastical practices and the true ministry of the diaconate, to ensure a firmer honor to the sanctuary and the liturgy and to avoid the scandals of heterodoxy and heteropraxy

+ The youth seek a father who is permanent and is accessible to us, to provide the fatherhood we see in His Holiness the Pope, for the sake of the stability, efficiency, and spirituality of our Coptic Church in New Jersey

+ We pray that New Jersey should not be split into both an official diocese and an Archdiocese, for this will hinder the efficiency and growth of all services, especially for those outside of the diocese

+ We look forward to meeting His Holiness the Pope in person very soon


Letter

Your Holiness Pope Tawadros II,

Please accept the reading of this letter after we kiss your right hand and offer you our metanya.

We want to first acknowledge that you are our father, and wherever we go, whatever situation we are in, our allegiance will always be to the see of St. Mark, the see of St. Athanasius, the see of St. Cyril, the see of St. Dioscorus, the see of St. Pope Kyrillos VI, and the see of the thrice-blessed Pope Shenouda III. We are incredibly thankful to be members of the Church, the body of Christ, whose fathers helped foster the growth of the ancient catechetical school of Alexandria, whose fathers stood against Arius and wrote the Nicene Creed, whose fathers stood against Nestorius, whose fathers kept the orthodox faith and protected St. Severus of Antioch, whose fathers struggled to keep our Church alive through centuries and centuries of persecution, whose fathers gave us the Coptic Renaissance through great men like St. Habib Girgis and the late Dr. Ragheb Moftah. This same Church has led to an amazing growth, upon which we have been witness to in the lands of immigration ever since St. Pope Kyrillos VI sent the thrice-blessed Bishop Samuel to begin this growth.

We the children of New Jersey’s Coptic presence also acknowledge the suffering and pains Your Holiness has went through ever since Christ our Lord has chosen you to take the seat bestowed upon St. Mark the Evangelist. Our hearts and our unworthy prayers are with you as you continue to lead the Church “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) by the Holy Spirit, and we are forever indebted to your fatherhood to us, forever continuing to pledge our allegiance to Christ, to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church in Egypt, and to you as the father chosen for the care of our orthodox Church.

The reason for this letter to Your Holiness is that we wish to ask you, as a good and worthy father, to help the churches in New Jersey grow from glory to glory in your blessed and wise care. We, the lay youth of New Jersey, seek that Your Holiness may bring to us a father that you entrust to care for the day-to-day evangelical and pastoral duties necessary for the land of New Jersey as an official diocese on its own, a bishop that Your Holiness sees fit, just as you saw fit for Western Canada, for New York, for the Carolinas, for Pennsylvania, and for Ohio, with all their affiliated regions. What makes this letter different from other letters, Your Holiness, is that no clergy, whether full deacons, presbyter, or hegumen, is involved in the writing of this letter. We are writing directly to Your Holiness to show a voice of the next generation of Coptic laity who is concerned about the future of the Coptic Church in New Jersey. The growth and successful leadership you and your predecessors have given to us may slow down without a proper diocesan bishop soon.

Your Holiness has witnessed the success of well-established dioceses in the United States, spearheaded by the most excellent services of His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion and His Grace Bishop Youssef. They have served as exemplary models as to how Christ’s Body in the United States can function to bring in the type of efficiency Your Holiness would expect in the Coptic Church to flourish and become the pride of Your Holy See. After this letter, we have itemized great examples of services from these dioceses which Your Holiness has been impressed with in Your pontifical visit. To summarize this list, we have seen that effective diocesan bishops who live and labor day by day, side by side with the congregants they preside over have almost always been instrumental in services related to the family, such as pre-marital services, services for widows, and serious family problems that require proper counseling. Diocesan bishops have been shown to provide medical aid not only to the underprivileged and the poor within their land, but were also instrumental in selecting servants willing to travel to foreign lands to expand upon the evangelical work of the Coptic Church with our excellent healthcare professionals. In doing so, they have also provided scholarships and educational services, aid to the elderly and handicapped, and help for the unemployed to seek out jobs. Diocesan bishops have also been shown to provide various services for the future of our Church, the youth, through a unified Sunday School and Coptic Hymnology curriculum. Two of the most important pillars of Coptic ministry, theological education and monasticism, have also been successful under the guidance of diocesan bishops.

The seeds of these ministries are already being sown in the new dioceses which Your Holiness has established, and we hope you see the list we provided at the end of this letter so as to convince you that New Jersey desires a similar diocesan blessing for herself. Our youth are seeking a diocesan bishop, who would live in an established manner among his flock in all of New Jersey, and who can successfully implement these visions, missions, and goals which are provided similarly in the other dioceses. This would help our churches move under the direction of someone’s guidance like Their Graces the bishops who the thrice blessed HH Pope Shenouda III has appointed and Your Holiness has recently appointed.

Indeed, our youth wish that we may have similar services and ministries in New Jersey that we may also receive the blessings of an organized community of parishes working together, rather than separately for their own respective purposes. The youth of New Jersey would love to have this connection between the bishop and the priests working together to foster these types of events. The youth would love to have a bishop who is able to lead family education and premarital services like the ones in other dioceses, rather than burdening engaged couples by sending them to travel far and gain their benefits. The youth would love to have a bishop who is able to unify both a Sunday School and Servant’s Preparation curriculum. The youth would love to have a bishop who would lead the great state of New Jersey in evangelical works through medicine and social services. The youth would love to have a bishop who would lay a foundation for theological training, in working with great theological universities and with our sister Oriental Orthodox churches for a glorious future of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Our youth are thirsty for a spiritual oasis of a Coptic monastic or celibate mission in our state as well. In summary, the youth recognize that there are powerful spiritual services lacking in New Jersey that those dioceses provide, and we recognize the success of such critical services is almost always associated with a bishop who locally resides with his flock who we hope will lead all of New Jersey, north and south, without any exception.

The presence of a diocesan bishop has been shown to be correlated with efficiency of a true administrative body that can handle the diocese’s collective physical and spiritual needs. One of these physical needs includes the management of finances (Acts 4:32-35). Having a strong diocesan bishop would increase the transparency of every parish’s treasury, allowing him to better allocate funds for two important areas. First, this will allow the bishop to better organize parishes into effective administrative regions, based on careful considerations of accurate census information, allowing for more evangelical outreach, spiritual outreach, and pastoral efficiency. Second, this is also beneficial for those outside the diocese. Not only will this assist Your Holiness’s struggles with your pastoral duties in Cairo and Alexandria, but anywhere around the world as you continue to work in your already exemplary and stellar administration of the Coptic Church worldwide.

We believe that it would provide Your Holiness more financial support to have a diocesan bishop who is able to make long-lasting decisions with our priests. While we are forever indebted to the general bishops who have shepherded us, handled our problems, provided crucial solutions and suggestions, these solutions and suggestions were only temporary in nature and would take a firm hold if we had a permanent diocesan bishop. If all of New Jersey is under the leadership of a permanent diocesan bishop, then all of New Jersey would have the necessary stability and strength to altogether support developing ministries throughout the state, as well as send its share of benefits to Your Holiness to care for the mother church, to whom we are and will be forever loyal.

The other importance of a diocesan bishop is to bring back proper ecclesiastical practices, especially the renewal of the Coptic Orthodox diaconate which is crucial to provide services for the laity, the catechumens, and inquirers. Your Holiness, ever since you led the Holy Synod to canonize St. Habib Girgis, and ever since His Grace Bishop Suriel published his work on this great saint, the youth have been searching for those who can walk in the ways of this great Church father and deacon. His Holiness the thrice blessed Pope Shenouda said of him, “our teacher…who started his life in an age that was almost void of religious education and knowledge. …Then, God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. And the light was Habib Girgis.” The Church had one other great father who also departed in the Church as a deacon, and that was Mor Ephraim the Syrian, the great composer of theological hymns. We, the youth of New Jersey, need a strong diocesan bishop who is willing to continue to keep the light of St. Habib Girgis burning with more ordinations of young and active full deacons to the service of theology and hymnology in our Church, and to avoid the scandals of heterodoxy and heteropraxy. We especially need theologically-educated deacons to address the controversy regarding the introduction of Western Protestant practices and hymns, undermining our sacred Coptic heritage, which developed without the direct supervision of a diocesan bishop. We seek a diaconate that follows the Church’s canons in order to restore the dignity of the apostolic ministry of the diaconate (Acts 6:1-7), to reestablish an even firmer honor of the sanctuary, and to foster an understanding and appreciation of the mystical aspects of the liturgy; this can only be provided when liturgical rubrics are comprehended and strictly and effectively followed through. We are confident that with a diocesan bishop and a strong and vibrant diaconate in the ways of Mor Ephraim the Syrian and St. Habib Girgis, these problems will be avoided, and Your Holiness will be as greatly pleased as you were when you visited His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion and His Grace Bishop Youssef.

Most importantly Your Holiness, we want a father who is accessible to us. We, the youth of New Jersey, are servants in our respective parishes that seek someone who can reflect your fatherhood for the worldwide Coptic Church. St. Paul the Apostle told the Corinthians, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:15-17). We ask Your Holiness to please send us one of your children, just as St. Paul sent St. Timothy, who has been proven to imitate your holy fatherhood for us, that we may have an accessible icon of the Love of the Father for our guidance. In every diocese, we have no doubt that when your Coptic children call Metropolitan Serapion, Bishop Youssef, or Bishop David “Anba,” this is impossible without seeing you as “Papa”. Rather than sending us a general bishop who lasts a few months to a few years and leave us thirsty for an accessible icon of permanent Fatherhood, we ask you to send us a permanent “Anba,” who reflects you as “Papa,” for the sake of the stability, efficiency, and spirituality of our Coptic Church in New Jersey.

If we may make one small request to Your Holiness, we think a son of New Jersey would be a fitting bishop. There are two monks under the spiritual guidance of His Grace Bishop Youssef who are from New Jersey, and both have held excellent reputations both in their spirituality and leadership, and both are beloved and well-known by the youth of New Jersey.

We also pray that New Jersey should not split into two separate areas. We feel there will be greater efficiency and growth in services if you allow all of New Jersey to flourish under one bishop together. The use of an Archdiocesan area will only hinder the spiritual and glorious growth Your Holiness would seek for your children in New Jersey. We desire a lawful diocesan bishop that can shoulder the burdens Your Holiness is gracefully and mightily carrying for all of us, as St. Paul taught, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). With a diocesan bishop who lives and labors day to day, side-by-side with the flock he presides over in New Jersey, we are confident with the grace of Christ to mirror the successes of other established dioceses in the United States. In doing so, we may continue to bring glory and honor to the see of St. Mark, that the Holy Spirit has established and has flourished under Your Holiness’ fatherly care.

Finally, Your Holiness, we look forward to meeting you and kissing your right hand in person. We understand difficult and inevitable circumstances last year have led you to postpone your visit to your children in New Jersey. With the All-Holy Father’s will, we pray and hope you find the time to bless us with your loving presence very soon.

We have sinned, absolve us and pray for our weaknesses,

Lay Youth of the Coptic Churches of New Jersey.


Appendix

Examples of Successful Services Under Diocesan Bishops that are Yearned For and Well Needed in New Jersey


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