Jerusalem

After the conversion of Constantine, many churches were built on the holy sites in Jerusalem and its environs. Fourth-century evidence shows Egyptian Church leaders visiting Jerusalem and other Egyptians making pilgrimages to the holy sites. A small Coptic church was built near the Church of the Resurrection in the Roman-Byzantine period. An organized Coptic presence in Jerusalem is confirmed by the letter of the Arab conqueror, Caliph Umar to Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem that names the Christian sects represented at the Church of the Resurrection. Among them at this time in the seventh century, is the Coptic Orthodox Church, no longer in communion with Rome or Constantinople. When the crusaders took control of Jerusalem, they expelled the Copts and others from their churches. Yet some twelfth-century European accounts (John of Wurzburg, 1165, and Theodoric, 1172) mention Copts among Christian sects in Jerusalem. Other sources maintain that the Coptic presence was re-established when Saladin conquered Jerusalem in 1187. There has since been a continuous Coptic presence in Jerusalem.

Coptic Orthodox Church activity in the Holy Land was originally supervised by the Coptic Archbishop of Damietta, who spent the period between Christmas and Easter in Jerusalem. In 1236 a new diocese was created, the See of Jerusalem and All the East, and Basilios I was appointed to the position by Pope Cyril II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The episcopal succession is not completely clear, but it continues as the See of Jerusalem, the Near East, and Sinai. In the twentieth century this diocese was active in many parts of the Near East.

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