The pre-history of the recent Benedictine foundation in Egypt started when Father Maximilian Musindai OSB from Tigoni Priory was sent to Kairo for a doctorate in Islamic studies. During his studies he war repeatedly approached by Catholic Egyptians who were asking why the Catholic Church in Egypt did not have any religious house of the older monastic tradition. Their quest was understandable on the background of the important role which the monasteries have for the Orthodox Christianity in Egypt. Egypt is, after all, the cradle of monasticism, and a vigorous monastic tradition going back 1700 years provides the spiritual backbone of the Orthodox Coptic church. The small Catholic community, while culturally very much aligned with their Orthodox brethren, has had to do without that source of strength.
The Benedictine Congregation of Sankt Ottilien decided to answer this request and started the necessary preparations.
In March 2018 the first community was officially welcomed by the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria under the title of St Benedict of the Copts.
The monastery follows the Coptic rite: the Eucharist and the Divine Office are being celebrated according to ancient Egyptian traditions (in Arabic), rather different from the ways of the Latin West. The Coptic Church has maintained ways of life and prayer that go back to the age of the early fathers of the church and early monasticism. In that sense, coming to Egypt for Benedictine is like coming to the house of their grandfathers: St Anthony, St Paul the Hermit and St Pachomius are household names for any Western monastic. Consequently, the founding members of the Benedictine house have gone out to establish fraternal and cordial relations with the Coptic Othodox hierarchy and several Orthodox monasteries.
Present projects and concerns
In September 2018, there are five monks: two from Kenya and three Egyptians. A small monastery on the outskirts of Cairo serves as student community and place of first contact for candidates, while a farm at Ismailia near the Suez Canal is being developed as the future main seat of the community.
Sometimes the issue of terrorism comes up. And yes, attacks on churches are not infrequent. But the local population is generally tolerant of Christians, and many are truly friendly. President Al-Sisi keeps emphasizing a shared Egyptian sense of identity. The ancient Christian communitites in the Near East have been coming under increasing pressure over the last decades. Many Christians have emigrated from Syria and Iraq, and the Palestinian communities are dwindling, too. This foundation aims to contribute to the life of Christianity in this region based on a spirit of Beneditine stability.