Parramatta Coptic Catholics celebrate Papal Visit

By Jordan Grantham, 23 May 2017
Fr Yousef Akladious. Image: Jordan Grantham/Diocese of Parramatta

Fr Yousef Akladious is the parish priest for the Coptic Catholic community at St Mark’s Coptic Catholic Church in Prospect.

Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt has been described as an incredible boost to national morale, while the country is rocked by instability and the Christian minority is persistently attacked in violent attacks.

Pope Francis is the first Holy Father to visit St Leo the Great Coptic Catholic Patriarchal Seminary in Cairo. Fr Yousef worked in the Coptic Catholic Seminary as a formator from 1996.

“People are very happy for the support from him in this very horrible time, especially for Coptic Catholics and the Catholic Church in Egypt,” Fr Youssef said.

The Coptic community is approximately 10 per cent of the Egyptian population and Coptic Catholics number only several hundred thousand around the world.

Related coverage: Diocesan Administrator meets Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria

Related coverage: EXCLUSIVE: First Australian interview with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri

Related coverage: Life is a gift for Father Zakaria Gayed

The Coptic Catholic Church is one of the Eastern Catholic Churches, which have full communion with the Holy Father, as the successor of St Peter, the Prince of the Apostles.

The Coptic Orthodox Church was founded by St Mark the Apostle and based in the Apostolic See of Alexandria.

Sadly, Alexandria and the Copts fell out of union with Rome during the Council of Chalcedon regarding the nature of Christ.

Several attempts at reunion with Rome succeeded temporarily, such as at the 15th century Council of Florence and in the early 18th century. Notably, the Coptic Bishop Anba Athanasius of Jerusalem temporarily became Catholic and lead the small modern Coptic Catholic community.

Franciscan, Capuchin and Jesuit missionaries have proselytised in Egypt for centuries, helping grow the modern Coptic Catholic community from its humble size.

Persecution of Christians in Egypt in the 20th century, among other factors, has lead to a global diaspora of Coptic Catholics.

Construction at St Mark’s Coptic Catholic Church, Prospect. Image: Moheb Salama, https://www.facebook.com/events/1362442060460672

The flourishing community at Prospect is currently building a larger Church, which will faithfully follow Coptic Catholic architectural traditions.

A sold out dinner fundraiser was held at the Paradiso in Fairfield on Sunday 7 May. The hearty celebration featured a sumptuous banquet, balloon raffle and prizes, including a signed Arsenal FC jersey and vigorous dancing to Middle Eastern tunes.

Related coverage: Diocesan Administrator meets Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria

Related coverage: EXCLUSIVE: First Australian interview with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri

Related coverage: Life is a gift for Father Zakaria Gayed

Fr Youssef sent a video message on Facebook to promote the event in English and Arabic. Moheb Salama and Josephine Khairy were just some of the many enthusiastic and generous volunteers.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri also visited St Mark’s Coptic Catholic Church on Tuesday 9 May to bless the half built church.

 

Fr Yossef spoke to Catholic Outlook about the Coptic Catholic community’s activities to build a new Church in Prospect.

What does this new Church mean for the community?

This Church is the result of years of their generous contributions, hard work and patience. It is a beautiful experience to see the building procedure step by step every day. It is our dream comes true, at last, after 40 years since we arrived to our beloved country Australia. Thanks be to God.

It is reminder of how much we have grown as a community, spiritually and in many other ways.

We hope that praying in this beautiful, Coptic style Church can help us to better live out our Eastern Catholic tradition, and show it to others. Ultimately we hope by building this Church for God, He may dwell among us and bring us to Himself.

We need to have a new Church, because the Chapel we have is too small to do Weddings, Christenings, and Funerals.

When the Church be completed?

The construction allows a period up to April 2018, however we are hoping for an early completion.

How large will the Church be?

The Main Church with a floor area of 500 metres squared and has Council Approval for 250 people. Also, there will be a basement under the Church with 500 metres squared, which will incorporate a kitchen, bookshop, Sunday School Classes and after Church meeting areas.

Does it have a large dome?

Yes there will be three domes: one large dome with a diameter of 5,600mm over the altar and two small ones 2,700 mm diameter at each side of the Church entry.

Will the Church have an iconostasis?

Yes, we will have.

Is the Church still dedicated to St Mark?

Yes. Saint Mark Coptic Catholic Church.

 

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