New US Dioceses -- Except NJ

I just heard about the enthronement of HG Bishop Karas as Bishop of the new Diocese including PA, MD, DE and WV, as well as the ordination and enthronement of Father Seraphim al-Souriani as Bishop of the new Diocese of the Midwestern US. That leaves NJ, Virginia and the few churches in the Northwest US still part of the Archdiocese. 

I haven't gotten a straight answer from bishops, priests, servants or anyone. Can someone please explain why New Jersey is not able to become part of a diocese? There is a very large, growing Coptic community with up to 30 large churches in the state alone, and every year, at least 1 or 2 more open. I understand that their Holiness have wisdom concerning this stance over the years, however, the LEAST that can be done is HH the Pope, aka our "diocesan Bishop" come to our churches or give us a direct reason why we aren't/won't be part of a diocese. 

This constant overturn of authority is getting annoying to say the least -- we all got used to Anba Karas and he knew and addressed individual problems that we raised to him, and now another Bishop (who doesn't speak English I've heard?) is coming to supervise. Plus, I've only heard that Anba Angelos of Cairo is the new General Bishop from official announcements or notes in the official bishop ordination announcements. 

Can someone please shed some light on this. I'm not trying to begin a coup or anything, I really am just trying to understand this logic, and I frankly am unable to get in contact with HH Pope Tawadros, who seems to be the only person that knows/is allowed to explain the reasoning. 


  • You may not like the answer: Politics. 
  • edited October 2017
    At first I was going to make a sarcastic comment, but when you said Bishop Angelos of Cairo might be general bishop for NJ, you got me excited.  If true, I am willing to wait it out.  I am an admirer of this bishop and I would love to see that he would become our official bishop if possible.


    Reasons for admiration:  theology and strong organizational leadership.  This I get from servants in Shoubra who I talked to.
  • @minasoliman...I second what you said. Being a person who understand arabic, i follow Anba Angelos on facebook and a couple of lectures of his (not sermons) online. I think we will benefit from him. He actually came with HH to SUS and LA. I am also told that he does speak english, and in his biography it said he served in the states....Just didn't say where. 

    To comment to the post, I agree with Remnkemi...politics is the answer and the idea that the Pope will always want (maybe even need), a presence in the states. Despite DC being the capital of the US, NJ is the capital of Copts in the US. So from the way I see it, i don't think we will ever be a diocese...atleast me living in Jersey City. The most I can hope for is for the entire Archdiocese to keep shrinking so that the exarch we get may concentrate more on us. You forgot to mention that the churches around Chicago are still part of the archdiocese. Technically churches in Canada too, but we haven't been hearing much about them.
  • edited October 2017
    If His Holiness wants a North American Vatican, I think he should just choose a parish, or have a cathedral to choose from. But the rest of NJ needs a diocesan Bishop.

    With that said, Bishop Angelos does have the reputation in Northern Shoubra of acting like a diocesan bishop despite being a general bishop. If he replicates his administrative work he did there to NJ, then I have hope things will get done (and perhaps that’s what His Holiness is willing to allow for now).

    But I also want to add, it is NOT a rumor that His Holiness was planning to “split” NJ, one into a diocese and one for himself (which if you ask me is bad ecclesiology). So I’m curious to understand what happened with that promise.

    On the issue of English, HG Bishop Karas came to the US with a weak command of English and improved over time. So I am not concerned with how well the bishop knows English. I want leadership, someone who will get things done, and someone who is very advanced in the patristic tradition of the Church.
  • edited October 2017
    Someone sent me a Facebook post that says Abouna Seraphim will be “general bishop” over the Midwest. So I’m not sure what type of authority he will have. Sounds similar to Bishop Michael of Virginia
  • As someone in Virginia, at the largest church in Virginia, we really would like our "own" bishop. If anyone heard about Abouna Bishoy Andrawes and the drama surrounding him, what we had to do was either contact Anba Youssef (who was far away) or H.H. and that became problematic. Also, the community was heavily influenced by Atef Aziz to the point that some members are now in a monestary dedicated to his teachings in CA. That's just my two cents - i wasn't alive for Anba Michael's stay in VA, nor am i someone extremely prominent in the church. I'm just sharing a youth's point of view on this matter.

    Pray for me
  • edited October 2017
    Everything in VA except that Church you were mentioning is under his guidance. So yea, unfortunately, the Fairfax parish isn’t considered part of the VA churches Bishop Michael is overseeing, and perhaps what happened in Fairfax is a good example of what happens when your diocesan Bishop is 6000 miles away neglecting to visit periodically, and chooses to go to Austria (a diocese with its own Bishop) at least 10 times a year.
  • @minasoliman

    STSA isn't under his guidance either.  And I understand the Fairfax parish has other "satellite" parishes, which I am not sure if they are under Anba Michael either.  And he is considered a general bishop despite the fact that he was ordained a diocesan bishop for eight states in the US, as reported in al-Keraza:

    Anba Aghathon of Maghagha, Anba Michael and some kind of theological institute in Cairo headed by Archdeacon Roshdi Wassef have all written letters to the Pope objecting to the enthronement of Anba Karas on what they consider Anba Michael's rightful diocese.
  • I just saw a Facebook post detailing the ordination words HH Pope Shenouda Ordained Bishop Michael with - specifically detailing the 7 or 8 churches he started alone. Most in Virginia and then one in Maryland and one in Pennsylvania.

    Doesn't seem like that's a diocese, especially since most of those churches have a neighboring church under the Archdiocese. It's odd to ordain a Bishop to only churches he started and not to a diocese. 
  • @copticuser20

    If he was a general bishop, it's standard practice that that's all the ordination words would say - "oskof 3am".  Mentioning specific cities and not mentioning the word "3am" anywhere in the ordination indicates that it is a diocese.  Also see this article in al-Keraza:
  • Concerning Anba Michael:

    I don't think he is to be considered a "General Bishop" despite the fact that he was not enthroned....welcomed yes, but not enthroned nor received the "tradition" of his bishopric.

    I'd like to think that the calling from the mouth of the Pope is what passes on the grace. And according to the video, "he is a bishop on the specific churches in Virginia and the vicinity."

    This whole thing about the 8 states being under his jurisdiction, i think this was the result of a hope that Pope Tawadros. Since he was the bishop in churches in some of those states, mine as well have him be on the rest. But, that didn't happen because most of the people and the priests didn't want him to be. 

  • @minasoliman...i thought he goes to Austria for medical reasons. no?!

    About splitting the diocese, i really think that may still happen. The thing is, till now, all we are hearing are rumors the leaks--one bishop or priest takes the emails that Anba Rafael sends and shares them with others. Which i don't believe is wise or ideal.  
  • edited October 2017
    It was asked several times publicly to some bishops “will NJ be a diocese” and the answer publicly was “NJ will be split, one into a diocese and one for the Pope.” Bishop Karas said this publicly as well as Bishop Abraam of California in the presence of the North American bishops and the people who attended the meeting with the bishops. So that’s why this was not a rumor.

    As someone who knows very well the issue is back pain, you don’t see a doctor that OFTEN for back pain, unless he wants refills on narcotics (which you can get remotely given the man is the Pope, that is assuming he is even taking narcotics). If he is traveling just to see a physical therapist, that seems a highly questionable use of resources as well. If surgery, it only takes one visit, unless the surgery is major, which means he will be bed ridden for weeks (the fact that he is back means it’s a very minor procedure, not even “surgery”). Austria was his comfort place ever since he was a general bishop. Medical reasons are just convenience for him.

    If the back pain was so severe, he should have never been Pope to begin with. The traveling will add a toll to his back. In fact, traveling several times to Austria and anywhere really becomes contraindicative to back pain. It’s like saying let me jog to the hospital for my knee pain. At that age, a doctor usually tells his patients, have you considered retiring. In most cases, honest physicians will tell their patients to own up to the pain. There’s nothing they can really do, and medications become slippery slopes. To repeatedly visit that much for back pain makes no sense to me.
  • Mina,
    How do priests and churches reject a Bishop?? This sounds contrary to what we preach and the authority and gifts given to the Bishop
  • @minatasgeel

    Even if we grant that Anba Michael wasnt ordained on 8 states but on those churches, isn't it still uncanonical for Anba Karas to be ordained on churches in PA and MD that belong to Anba Michael?
  • @qawe..

    Two points we have to consider:
    1- It's possible that one bishop is ordained on a state with one or two churches under the jurisdiction of another bishop. Despite how annoying that may be as minasoliman said, it happens since not all church have the same number of families being served and the criteria for establishing the diocese may be different.

    2- The signed letter that says that His Grace is a bishop on all 8 states, says that he is a General Bishop, even though that was NOT the verbal calling of Pope Shenouda. If he IS a General Bishop, than his superior is His Holiness the Pope, and therefore if the Pope wants to change his jurisdiction, he can. It's exactly like Anba Angelos of Shobra who is coming to NJ--he was the general bishop of a part of shoubra, and he is coming here to be a general bishop on the archdiocese. And this General Bishop point is ignored fully when you talk to the supporters of Anba Michael.
  • edited October 2017
    So from what I understand now, Abouna Seraphim is going to be a diocesan Bishop, not General. And the ordination will take place on November 11, along with Bishop Karas being ordained for above mentioned states. Someone will also be ordained as a general bishop for a new diocese in Europe, a successor to the late Metropolitan Kyrillos of Milan will be ordained as general bishop, a new bishop for Al-Muharaq Monastery, Bishop Angaelos of London will be diocesan Bishop for London and the affiliated areas, and Bishop Mark as diocesan bishop for France.
  • Guys, you're missing my point about politics. 

    All of these problems that are occurring now are the consequence of poor ecclesiological theology and the political paradigm of HH Pope Kyrillos VI and Pope Shenouda III. 

    Not only is there no theological grounds for the general bishop, there is no precedent. It clearly violates Irenaeus' ecclesiology, which has been the standard for centuries. There is a reason why St Basil ordained St Gregory of Nazianzus as bishop of Sasima (which was a new diocese), not a general bishop of a church in Sasima or in Caeserea. There is a reason why the canons forbid two bishops in the same city. There is a reason why Nicae Canon 6 standardized the function of the metropolitan. 

    All of these episcopal dealings always had political ramifications. But it never violated theology. The idea that a general bishop can be ordained to an area changes the original concept from helping the metropolitan in episcopal duties by dividing provinces into diocese into a semi-official concept of creating non-diocesean diocesean bishop. It's an oxymoron to be a general bishop of an area. It doesn't even make much sense to have a general bishop of a service or subgroup of parishioners (ie, Bishop of the youth). Where does it end? Why don't we have a bishop of obese Copts and another bishop for skinny Copts? (I'm not being all that facetious. There is already a call for a bishop of second generation English speaking Copts in addition to a bishop for first generation emigrant Arabic speaking Copts). 

    I feel sorry for Bishop Michael. But he is a victim of previous papal inadequate ecclesiology. Nothing we are going to do is going to change this concept of an "archdiocese", because it is seen as political front for having the Patriarch be bishop somewhere outside his jurisdiction. Seriously, we never agreed to Chalcedon Canon 28. The Pope is not bishop of the lands of the barbarians (even though a lot of people in NJ act like barbarians). Even the word "archdiocese", a 20th century concept, has theological ramifications. All dioceses are equal and independent. An exarchy is not the same as archdiocese viceroy even though the word exarch and viceroy is used interchangeable. Technically, since Metropolitan Serapion is in LA, that makes LA diocese the "archdiocese" (more accurately exarchy) and Met Serapion has jurisdiction over NJ, not the Pope. As long as people see the  general bishops as a viceroy of the pope, we're going to continue down this path.

    It's one big mess that isn't going to change because (1) it would be politically disadvantageous to do so and (2) ecclesiology and theology is seen as too complicated and unnecessary among many Copts (even clergy).
  • "Why don't we have a bishop of obese Copts"

    Here I am Lord, send me! (Isaiah 6:8)

    Real talks tho, Rem, you took the nail. Then you took Thor's hammer. Then you dropped the hammer on the nail's head. 

    We like to think that these canons have zero practical translation. As though the writers were bored one day with no soap opera to watch so they started issuing fatawy. This is what happens. And its only going to get worse. 

    She said take of your jacket. I told her "mans not hot."

  • I’m weary of repeating what Rem said because I sound like a broken record. :P
  • How does anyone benefit in a situation like this? I'd be 100% okay with having NJ as an Archdiocese if HH was actually here. With all respect to him, we are almost at 5 years under his leadership and "the Archdiocese" hasn't seen him once. He visited the 2 areas of the US that already had their own diocesan Bishops and then cancelled his trip to NJ after finally deciding to come visit.  I really don't care if he doesn't want to come; I have little confidence that I'd be able to meet him or even see him more than once. 

    So if we have 1 general bishop spread over most of the US, and our real bishop hasn't come to us in 5 years and counting, who benefits from this? As someone mentioned, Virginia is a mess, Northern and Central Jersey are messes  (Bishop Karas announced he was directly in charge of one of the churches back in August.... guess not anymore?) and we need direct oversight or guidance. 
  • how accurate is this website? is it official enough now to congratulate anba angels (of uk) who I will see soon?
    sorry I don't understand the usa politics but i pray u will all have love, peace and tolerance. anba karas was the first orthodox priest i met and i benefited very much from his kindness and his welcome
  • @mabsoota. What minasoliman mentioned will most likely happen. The only delay to an official announcement is that people keep fighting about Anba Karas' new diocese because of the issues with Anba Michael.
  • Watani is a reasonably reliable site on Coptic news.  So I see no problem with congratulating His Grace Bishop Angaelos for his upcoming elevation.
  • It was also just announced on CopticCentreUK twitter account.  
  • edited October 2017
    "Real talks tho, Rem, you took the nail. Then you took Thor's hammer. Then you dropped the hammer on the nail's head. "

    RO, did you not realize that I'm the real Batman? Thor's hammer is meh!! I mean it takes Batman to get RO to come back and post after all this time. Thor couldn't do that. 

    "I’m weary of repeating what Rem said because I sound like a broken record."
    I don't mind if you repeat "a lot of people in NJ act like barbarians" until you sound like a broken record. 

  • And, we have an official list:

    Enthronement of:
    1- HG Bishop Angealos (General Bishop of Stevenage), as Bishop of London, UK
    2- HG Bishop Karas (General Bishop in Archdiocese of NA), as Bishop of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia, USA
    3- HG Bishop Mark, as Bishop of Paris and North France

    Ordination of:
    1- Hegumen Fr. Pigoul El-muharraqi, as Bishop and Abbot of St. Mary’s Monastery (El-muharraq)

    2- Hegumen Fr. Antonio Avva Shenouti, as Bishop of Milan, Italy
    3- Hegumen Fr. Seraphim El-soriany, as Bishop of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, USA
    4- Hegumen Fr. Jeovonni Avva Shenouti, as Bishop of Hungary and its affiliated regions of Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Poland (Central Europe)

  • None of them will be general bishops?
  • According to the original arabic from Anba Raphael, no. Which kind of makes sense.

    I think this whole General Bishop thing is the Synod's way of avoiding possible problems with enthroning a bishop that you cannot after remove for not being the good choice for a diocese. If you consider the 4 monks:
    (1) He is a monk from that exact monastery and according to the Pope, he was one of two the monks voted for
    (2) and (4) are both from the same monastery in the area they will be serving
    (3) he has been serving that diocese (group of churches) for atleast a year and a half

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