Selecting a Pope, Egyptian style

Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox church, has died. After serving the church through many years of change since his accession in 1971, the church must now look for a successor. The next man to occupy the papal throne in Egypt will preside over turbulent times for Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

Bishops, former and current Coptic Cabinet members, other Coptic luminaries and newspaper owners and editors will vote on his successor. One from amongst the three candidates with the highest number of votes will then be selected by a blindfolded child. No, I am not kidding – that is how he will be chosen. Furthermore, this is not some arcane election procedure emerging from ancient times. This means of electing a new Coptic Pope was agreed in 1957!

It is an unusual way to interpret Isaiah 11 v.6, but given the mess which more democratic procedures produce – perhaps it is as good as any!