Egypt's Coptic church said yesterday that prosecutors are investigating the death of a monk who had until recently served in a monastery northwest of Cairo where the abbot was killed in July.
In a brief statement, the Coptic Orthodox Church said the cause of monk Zeinoun al-Maqari's death, at the al-Muharraq monastery in southern Egypt, remained unknown. It said he was transferred there following the July death of Bishop Epiphanius, abbot of St. Macarious monastery. That suggested Zeinoun may have been involved in a now-publicized disciplinary dispute between Epiphanius and several monks at St. Macarious.
Epiphanius' killing has shaken Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, and opened a window onto its cloistered world. The church introduced monasticism to the faith, but its monastic desert traditions had largely vanished before being revived over the past century.
The July killing took on added significance because two monks — one of whom was defrocked — are the main suspects. Both are on trial for killing of the abbot.
The case has exposed a side of the church that few in Egypt knew existed, including the growing power and independence of monks in remote monasteries who appear to be at odds with Pope Tawadros II, the church's spiritual leader, and its central leadership.