On the occasion of the fortieth year of the enthronement of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III on the throne of St. Mark, the Secretariat of the Holy Synod was able, with the help of the Lord, and with the encouragement of His Holiness the Pope and the members of the Holy Synod, to fulfil the desire of many to issue a comprehensive new edition of the Book of Synodical Decisions during the era of His Holiness, since he was enthroned on the seat of St. Mark on 14 November 1971 until the meeting in 22 may 2010 which is the most recent meeting of the Holy Synod. Before the beginning of the fortieth year of His Holiness the first edition was issued on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of His Holiness, and the second edition on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary, and this current edition includes annual decisions which were not published in the last two editions and these publications were blessed with introductions by the handwriting and signature of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.
The decisions of the Holy Synod were categorised according to the topics into 25 chapters. The Synod Decisions set out in each chapter or item of the chapter, according to the chronological order in which the Holy Synod released each decision. It has been taken into account in this book that the first chapter is devoted to writing the basic regulations of the Holy Synod, which was approved by the Synod on 1st June 1985.
The publishing of this Constitution was one of the most important achievements of the Synod in the era of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. For the first time in contemporary history, the Holy Synod had set out the regulation of its work, meetings and decisions.
This Constitution has been prepared for issuance since the start of 1985, as His Holiness the Pope asked all members of the Holy Synod, to send their proposals regarding this Constitution and what items are required in it and what it stipulates. After collecting all the proposals received in this regard, His Holiness the Pope held a meeting which he chaired at the Papal Residence in the Monastery of St. Bishoy, to study the projects of the submitted regulations and the numerous suggestions. To draft the Constitution project, this was completed after several meetings, and the Constitution project that was presented to the members of the Synod was drafted to be discussed.
The Holy Synod discussed in its meeting that was held at the Papal Residence of St. Rewis in Cairo on the morning of 01/06/1985, all the articles in the Constitution item by item, and the necessary amendments were made. Finally, the Holy Synod approved this Constitution at the same meeting, which includes in one of its articles how to make amendments to it in a lawful way.
In one of the meetings on ecumenical dialogue, the Coptic Church presented a paper on how to exercise power and administration in the tradition of the Coptic Church. This research included concepts from the Apostolic Age, and from the sayings of the Apostles' disciples, with a presentation of some of the main articles of the Constitution of the Holy Synod, which was approved by the Synod in the era of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. This Constitution has attracted the attention of all theologians present from all Eastern and Western churches, and requested full copies of them in both Arabic and English, and won admiration and approval from many, in a way that expresses their appreciation for the original methods by which the Holy Synod exercises its authority, headed by His Holiness the Pope and Patriarch in the administration of Coptic Orthodox Church affairs.
This book also includes the decisions issued by the Holy Synod, based on the recommendations of the various Holy Synod committees.
The Permanent Committees of the Holy Synod are: Faith Education and Legislation, Diocesans Affairs, Ecclesiastical Relations, Monastic Affairs, Rituals, Public Relations, Pastoral Care and Service, the Secretariat, and Review.
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III encouraged members of the Holy Synod to join the committees of the Synod according to their preferences and talent. He also encouraged the Synod committees to meet regularly three times a year, in addition to informal meetings. The committees were active in their work, with each committee meetings chaired by a chairman. They performed their work in coordination with the Secretariat of the Holy Synod. Each committee also has a deputy chairman.
The Holy Synod agreed to form sub-committees for some of the Permanent Committees, such as for the Pastoral Care and Service Committee and from the Faith, Education, and Legislative Committee.
His Holiness the Pope himself attended many meetings of the permanent committees of the Synod where he presides over the session he attends. His presence has an effective impact in revitalising the work of these committees. He also heads some of these permanent committees, such as the Faith, Education, and Legislative Committee and Diocesans Affairs committee, and he has a deputy to act in his place in managing the affairs of these two committees if they meet without the attendance of His Holiness.
His Holiness the Pope held several seminars, under his leadership, for members of the Holy Synod to study, research, exchange views and unify thought, in matters of interest to the Church ideologically, pastorally and all other matters.
During the meetings of the Holy Synod, His Holiness the Pope and the members of the Holy Synod listens to the opinion of each member. His Holiness leads the dialogue in a manner that preserves the oneness of heart and thought, and leads to decisions being made in the spirit of the group according to the intention of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Church since the beginning of the Apostolic Age.
This book includes the decisions issued by the Holy Synod during the era of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III - may God prolong his life - and some of these decisions were for important reasons such as the decision not to accept the dismissal of the late Patriarch of Ethiopia, Father Theophils, during his lifetime without reason, and accordingly, not to participate in the ordination of a substitute patriarch during his life. Also the decision that prevents Orthodox Copts from visiting Jerusalem following the actions of the Israeli authorities there, and pending the reform of its position on its part. Also the decision to create a Holy Synod in the Church of Eritrea at the request of the Church there, accompanied by a request from the President of the independent country of Eritrea in an interview with the Pope in Cairo. It is noted that the President of Eritrea is a member of this Orthodox Church. Likewise, the protocol on the relationship between our Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Church was adopted on the eve of the ordination of His Holiness the Patriarch of Eritrea, Father Philips I, headed by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo on 08/05/1998.
Before that, the Holy Synod had approved the protocol of the relationship between our Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on 31 March 1994.
The Holy Synod issued many decisions regarding the return of monastic life to some monasteries of monks or nuns, and the recognition of some new monasteries inside and outside of Egypt, and issued many laws regarding monastic life and monks, in preparation for the issuance of a new comprehensive regulations of monasticism that is being prepared at the present time.
The Holy Synod also issued important decisions on personal affairs, and the unified law of personal affairs, the prevention of divorce (except for adultery or fornication) and that divorcees shall not marry [if divorced] due to their own fault, and cases of annulment of marriage. A special meeting was held on 08/06/2010 and issued a statement regarding second marriage, its legality, and also everything that regulates matters of personal affairs and the procedures of engagement and marriage.
A decision was issued prohibiting marriage from a woman’s brother and a wife’s sister and the Holy Synod issued many decisions regarding the rituals of the Church and how to preserve the original ecclesiastical heritage, reviewing the Synaxarium, correcting what is necessary in the Synaxarium and burials, and adopting the necessary rituals for the ordination of the Chanters and Arch Chanters, the consecration of consecrated servants, assistance of the deaconess and full deaconess (without laying hands), the establishment of a head of a monastery, and the vow read by the applicants to monasticism and priesthood, and applicants to the Episcopate of all kinds. Also, regulations organising the service of consecrated [female] servants in the Church and specifying that their specialisation concerns women and children and what is necessary for their preparation and care. All of these rituals take advantage of [follow] the ancient ecclesiastical heritage.
The Holy Synod issued decisions regarding the seminary, ecclesiastical organisations, acknowledgment of saints, the appearance of the Blessed Virgin in the Church of St. Demiana in Baba Doblo in 1986, in St. Mark church in Assuit in 2000, and in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and Archangel Michael in Waaraq in 2009.
The Holy Synod was concerned about the national role of the Church, and issued decisions on that.
The Holy Synod was concerned about the national role of the Church, and issued decisions on that.
The Holy Synod discussed all the results of theological dialogues with other churches, and issued decisions about those. One of the most important decisions is the Synod's decision to accept the return of communion with the Orthodox Churches in the world, while awaiting the approval of the Holy Synods of the rest of the sister Churches and Churches of the Orthodox family.
The Holy Synod also issued a decision rejecting the Nestorian Assyrian churches, and another decision considering Jehovah's Witnesses and the Adventists as non-Christian denominations.
The Holy Synod issues decisions regarding some prohibited books that conflict with proper Christian teachings or Orthodox teachings.
The Holy Synod was informed of the joint statements made by the Fathers, heads of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the Middle East. The Holy Synod emphasised that the name of His Holiness the Antiochian Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church should be mentioned in the prayers of the Litany of Fathers in our Church. This is just as the Syrian Church mentions His Holiness the Pope of Alexandria, as agreed in previous covenants.
The Holy Synod was informed of a visit to Egypt by His Holiness Father Paulos, Patriarch of Ethiopia, and His Holiness Pope Shenouda III's visit to Ethiopia and the joint statement issued by their Holinesses on this visit.
The Holy Synod approved the Protocol on relations with the British Orthodox Church of the British Isles (for those of British origin), and the Protocol for the French Coptic Orthodox Church (for those of French origin).
The Holy Synod discussed the need for the Sinai Peninsula to have a special Bishop, to care for it and look after it. A decision was issued to study this important need. Consequently, there is to be an ordination of a Bishop for Sinai, following the division of the Diocese to the north and south after the departure of that Bishop and the ordination of two new Bishops.
The Holy Synod also decided to return the ritual of the property contract to its original position as the “token of marriage”, and made the necessary amendments to it as well as the necessary addition to the will of the newlyweds, and this was published in the El-Keraza magazine issued on 06/08/1999.
The Synod also issued a decision accepting the pastoral agreement of our Church with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria regarding the joint marriage of two members of the two churches. This agreement was signed on 05/04/2001.
It is difficult in this preface to mention all the decisions issued by the Holy Synod headed by His Holiness the Pope, but we mentioned some of them as examples. We leave it to the reader to browse through the chapters of the book and consider the documents.
In the issuance of this book, it was decided to include the documentary appendices starting from page 221, and an index beginning on page 411.
The book, presented by the Secretariat of the Holy Synod, is a gift to His Excellency, who is His Holiness Pope Shenouda III in the fortieth year of his enthronement. This is considered a partial record of the history of the Church during the era of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III and part of the references required for the laws of our Church.
We place this book in the hands of the dear reader to study and learn, hoping that it will be a way to glorify the name of the Lord in His sacred Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and by the prayers of St. Mark the Apostle, and His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, who sits on the Throne of St. Mark.
Secretariat of the Holy Synod