Country's Christians' history
A priest gives Communion during Sunday liturgy at the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in the Maadi suburb of Cairo Aug. 25.
Many Copts — the name for Egypt's indigenous Christians — trace their religion all the way back to Jesus who, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew, sought refuge in their country from the wrath of Herod the Great 2,000 years ago.
Coptic tradition holds that Christ stayed in Egypt for three years and that later, around the year 42, St. Mark the Evangelist also came to evangelize in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, before being martyred there.
Christianity continued to spread among the locals called "Copts," a derivative from the Greek word for Egypt, and by the third century, Christianity was the country's dominant religion. By the time the newer religion of Islam arrived in Egypt in the middle of the seventh century, Egyptian Christianity had already provided the church with some of the world's major Christian saints and had introduced new forms of monastic life.
Today, Egypt's Christians represent the largest Christian minority group of the Middle East and North Africa, and they number anywhere from 10-15 percent of Egypt's 82.5 million people, who are predominantly Sunni Muslim.
The vast majority of Egypt's Christians are Coptic Orthodox, but there are other local Christian groups, including Protestants and Catholics from various Eastern Catholic rites.
Egypt's Coptic Catholic Church is the largest of the Catholic rites in the country and accounts for as many as 300,000 faithful.
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