Bishop gives Staten Islanders hope in anticipation of Coptic Christmas Day on Tuesday

Bishop David delivered a message of hope in anticipation of the Coptic Orthodox Church Christmas celebration on Tuesday. The words were especially meant to inspire the friends and relatives in Egypt of parishioners of Coptic Archangel Michael & St. Mena Church in Great Kills.

The bishop, known only by his first name, was consecrated last November as the head of the new Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England. He officiated at the Sunday morning liturgy on Dec. 22 at the Great Kills parish where nearly all of the roughly 600 parishioners are of Egyptian heritage.

The bishop sees the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi and the interim government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as positive changes for all Egyptians.

"Things are getting better now in Egypt," said Bishop David, who was born in Cairo, and spoke with the Advance last week.

The bishop hopes that going forward the government will treat all  90 some million Egyptians as equals, regardless of their religious beliefs. About 15 million members of the Coptic faith make up about 16 percent of the total population of Egypt.

"Let the religion be within the places of worship, whatever church or mosque," Bishop David said. "We're very hopeful that the new government will be considerate of being very careful not to discriminate in terms of religious beliefs."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed as a terrorist orginzation, not only targeted churches but government buildings for attacks, thereby making it clear that "they have a political agenda, not a religious agenda," the bishop stressed.

Pope Tawadros II appointed Bishop David as the first shepherd and diocesan bishop of the new Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England. The district includes a total of 24 Coptic churches in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine. The new diocese is the third for the United States.

The majority of the Coptic church members in the United States are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants from Egypt. Most emigrated to the United States to "find a better life for their children and freedom to practice their religious beliefs and job opportunities as well," the bishop said. Persecution in Egypt in the last few years has led to a large influx of immigration to the point where some churches in the United States are seeing new families nearly every week.

When Bishop David visited the Great Kills parish, he stayed from the morning until 8 p.m., meeting with members of all committees and individual parishioners. He primarily focused on youth and the importance of their attendance at services and participation in parish activities.

Bishop David was consecrated in formal ceremonies in Cairo last Nov. 16-17 and on Dec. 7 in the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Abraam in Woodbury, L.I., a ceremony attended by thousands of the faithful.

Prior to being named bishop, he served as the general bishop and the patriarchal exarch of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America in Cedar Grove, N.J., for 14 years.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the ancient Christian Church of Egypt, having been founded in the first century by St. Mark the Apostle and author of the Gospel. Throughout history, the Coptic Orthodox Church has suffered severe persecution that continues to this day. 

In the Coptic faith, Christmas Day is calculated according to the Julian calendar and this year is on Jan. 7. 

Born in 1967 in Cairo, Egypt, Bishop David first arrived in North America with his family in 1984 and settled in Toronto, Canada, where he completed studies in biological science. He has since earned two master's degrees, his first in Pastoral Counseling from Fordham University and his second in Theological Studies from Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston.

Source: Silve 

Esmat Messiha Gabriel

In a priestly life span that witnessed radical, ecclesial, cultural, political and economic changes. H.G. Bishop David has been a stalwart symbol of leader-servant of faith-filled tranquility, honest realism and gracious humility. Thank you your Grace for an emphatically pastoral and practical Feast of nativity message. Merry Christmas, happy and blessed New Year. Esmat & Irene