Egypt executes defrocked monk convicted of killing abbot

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities execute a defrocked monk convicted of killing an abbot in a desert monastery north of Cairo, officials say.

The 2018 killing of Bishop Epiphanius, an abbot at St. Macarius Monastery, shocked Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and the one that introduced monasticism to the faith. The monastery was built in the fourth century.

Two defrocked monks, identified as Isaiah and and Faltaous, were convicted of killing Epiphanius and sentenced to death by a criminal court in April 2019. The Court of Cassation, the country’s highest criminal court, last year upheld the death sentence against Isaiah and gave Faltaous a life sentence.

Isaiah was executed by hanging in the Wadi Natrun prison complex in the Nile Delta province of Beheira, the officials say. They speak on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media.

The abbot was killed in the middle of the night in a part of the vast monastery not covered by security cameras. Prosecutors said he was killed with blows to the head by an iron bar.

The abbot’s killing has exposed a side of the church that few in Egypt — Muslim or Christian — knew existed, including the growing power and independence of monks in remote monasteries who appear to be at odds with Pope Tawadros II and the church’s central leadership.

Among these monks are some who espouse a policy of isolationism and see themselves as guardians of the true faith. They are pitted against a more mainstream faction that favors building bridges with other churches and lending political support to the government.

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