Copts in the Holy Land
On the (very first) day of Pentecost in Jerusalem,
This was the first Egyptian group who came to Jerusalem. Later on, after the evangelisation of Saint Mark in Egypt (some years after Pentecost), some Copts started to come to Jerusalem as pilgrims, ascetics or traders. Some of those pilgrims and ascetics lived in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho mainly after the consecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sometime in the middle of the 4th century (after having been built in 335 AD in the place where the Cross had been discovered). Saint Athanasius the Great, (the Pope of Alexandria) shared in the consecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Also, some Coptic monks from Egypt came to live in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho, and some came to the Holy Land on their way to Syria and Iraq. Saint Hilarion (a Coptic monk) for example, came from Egypt and lived in Gaza.
Copts occupied some parts of the original large Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is known now as the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.
Some original buildings of the Byzantine Holy Sepulchre still exist in the ground floor of the Coptic Patriarchate, and in the Coptic chamber inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Copts have, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a small chapel at the head of the Tomb of Jesus (in the Rotunda), and 2 chambers consisting of some rooms for monks to live in. They are responsible for: following the prayers; incensing day and night; the big oil lamps inside the Holy Tomb, the Room of the Angel and the Stone of Unction at the entrance of the Church; as well as the processions, the candles, cleaning, and all other preparations according to the Status Quo.
The Copts share in the processions with the Armenian Orthodox Church and Syrian Orthodox Church on Palm Sunday after the Mass, on Easter Saturday after the Greek Orthodox procession of Light, and early Sunday Morning after the Easter Mass. As well as this, the Copts have their own procession (6pm-8pm) on Good Friday evening from the 10th Station to the Station of the Holy Tomb.
They have the right to pray in their tent on the Mount of Olives on the day of the Feast of the Ascension.
The Copts also have many monasteries in Jerusalem, Jaffo, Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jericho, as well as two nunneries in Jerusalem (at the Jaffa Gate), and one in Bethlehem.
They also have two schools inside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and another large College in Beit Haneena.
During the era of Mohammad Ali, the son of Abraham Basha,
many Copts were brought to Jerusalem for administration. After the 1948 war,
many Copts immigrated to countries outside of the Holy Land. That is why the
Coptic community is not so large nowadays in the Holy Land.
As related by His Eminence Metropolitan Dr. Anba Abraham. All rights reserved.