His Beatitude Theodoros II, whose office extends his ecclesiastical jurisdiction across continental Africa, is a man out of time, a man for whom the past nurtures a deep commitment to a better future. He is the Orthodox See's second most senior cleric, deferring only to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Agios Georgios, the Church of Saint George, stands on the ruins of the Fortress of Babylon, the Byzantine garrison around which clustered the earliest beginnings of Cairo. The circular church with its towering dome dominates its site in Coptic Cairo. It is here, and not at his official residence adjacent to Alexandria's Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, that Theodoros II receives me. He is very much at home in the heart of Coptic Cairo. Extrapolating on the theological differences between the Greek Orthodox and Coptic churches, he notes that the Greek Orthodox Church is Chalcedonian and Melkite in the Byzantine tradition. The Copts, on the other hand are monophysites.
The two churches, Greek and Coptic, have survived the ravages of time and gory disagreement. "There are very minor theological differences between the Greek and the Coptic creeds. Differences centre around the nature of Jesus Christ," Theodoros II explains.
The First Ecumenical Synod, convened in Nicaea on the Black Sea by Constantine the Great in 325 was a turning point for the Greek Orthodox Church. More than 300 bishops attended, and amid much bickering the Nicene creed was passed. Yet arguments about the precise nature of Christ continue to this day. "It is lamentable but true," says Theodoros II, laughing.
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