finally (8) that it should elect with the assistance of the patriarch four clergy who would apply canon law to those matters dealing with 'personal status' questions.
These new responsibilities of the Majilis al-Milli restricted in some measure the power of the patriarch as well as that of the clergy by giving power to the laity. However, several changes occurred in the constitution of the Majilis al-Milli as a consequence of disputes between the patriarchate, the clergy and the laity. On 31 December 1908, the original constitution, which was passed on 14 May 1883, was amended: (1) the patriarch was given the right to appoint an acting president of the Majilis al-Milli in his absence; (2) the supervision over the waqfs was given to the patriarch, who was to be assisted by four members of the clergy, appointed by himself. On 12 February 1912, the constitution was changed once more: (1) the number of the members of the Majilis al-Milli should be twelve, four to be appointed by the patriarch and eight to be elected by the community; (2) the supervision over the waqfs, schools, monasteries and convents reverted to the patriarch, who was to be assisted in their supervision by four bishops. These changes, however, were not readily accepted by the Coptic community, because of the power which was now concentrated in the members of the clergy. Thereupon, the members of the Majilis al-Milli spent a great deal of effort until they obtained an order from the government on 22 July 1927 which returned to the laity the rights and responsibilities it had under the constitution of 1883. This explicitly stated that the Majilis al-Milli was to consist of twelve lay members and twelve sub-members, to be elected by church suffrage, in other words by the general community. It was also to supervise the waqfs, churches, monasteries, convents, the press and any 'personnel status' issues under the chairmanship of the patriarch. The latter, for his part, was to have the right to elect four clergy to apply canon law in those matters which the Majilis al-Milli had decided upon.
Generally, the relationship between the Majilis al-Milli and successive patriarchs was rather cool, for the patriarchs always looked on the Majilis al-Milli as an organisation which restricted their authority. The Majilis al-Millis success in gaining control of the community was, in fact, somewhat limited. It spent much of its energy in trying to gain what it saw as its rights, rather than exercising the ones it had. Following his election, Kyrillos VI (1959-71) declared in his message to the Coptic Church that he had decided to cooperate with the Majilis al-Milli for the good of the people and the clergy. By this time, however, the Majilis al-Milli no longer enjoyed its initial rights and responsibilities. The final blow came in 1962, with Nasser's abolition of the Coptic Majilis al-Milli, returning communal authority and leadership, such as was left, to the clergy.
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