The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Churches of the world, having been founded by Saint Mark the Apostle. A conservative Church, it has carefully preserved the orthodox Christian Faith in its earliest and purest form, handing it down from generation to generation, unaltered and true to the Apostolic doctrines and patterns of worship.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is a deeply spiritual Church, emphasising holiness and the Divine Mysteries, and at the same time, a strongly doctrinal Church, holding faithfully to the canons of the Holy Scriptures, the Apostolic and Orthodox creeds, and the teachings of the Church Fathers of the first three ecumenical councils. The Coptic Orthodox Church has stood firm and remained faithful to the Apostolic Traditions and Orthodox Faith, despite waves of the most fearful persecutions under pagan Roman Emperors, Byzantine and Arab rulers, and in the face of serious heresies which attacked the very essence of the Christian Faith and threatened to split the Church and all of Christendom.
The Copts are the native Christians of Egypt and the direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians, a people with perhaps the longest recorded history. The word 'Copt' is derived from 'gypt', which stems from the Greek word Aigyptos' meaning 'Egyptian'.
Egypt in the Holy Bible
In the Holy Bible, Egypt was a land of refuge, especially in times of famine. Abraham visited Egypt, so did Joseph, who became Pharaoh's deputy. Jacob and his twelve sons came and dwelt in Egypt where they became a nation. Jeremiah the Prophet also visited Egypt.
The crown of these visits, however, was the Holy Family's visit during the childhood of our Lord, who traveled from Sinai in the East to the valley of Nitria in the West, and southwards to Assyut, the heart of Upper Egypt.
Many miracles took place in Egypt during the visit of the Holy Family. Many places were blessed, and in these places where the Holy Family lived, churches were later built, and are visited by pilgrims from all over the world. Thus the land of Egypt was blessed by the visit of our Lord, being the only country other than His birth land to be visited by Him, in fulfillment of the prophecy: "Behold the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst." (Isaiah 19:1)
Saint Cyril of Alexandria interpreted this prophesy, saying: "The 'swift cloud' which carried the Child Jesus to Egypt, was His mother, the Virgin Saint Mary, who surpassed the cloud in purity. The altar which was established in the midst of the land of Egypt is the Christian Church which replaced the pagan temples as the idols collapsed and the temples became deserted in the presence of the Lord Jesus."
During the twentieth century also, the Coptic Orthodox Church has been blessed by the apparition of the Virgin Saint Mary in her Church at Zeitoun in Cairo in 1968, in the Church of Saint Demiana in the Cairo suburb of Shoubra in 1986, and in various other places, thus fulfilling the words of the Scriptures:
"Blessed is Egypt My people." (Isaiah 19:25)