Christianity in Libya

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The ruins of the Basilica of Justinian in Sabratha

Christianity is a minority religion in Libya. Since Roman times it has always been present in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

Characteristics[edit]

The largest Christian group in Libya is the Coptic Orthodox, with a population of over 300,000.[1] The Coptic (Egyptian) Church is known to have historical roots in Libya long before the Arabs advanced westward from Egypt into Libya. However, the Roman Catholics have a large number as well, with 140,000 members. Orthodox communities other than that of the Egyptian Copts include the Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, and the Greek Orthodox. There is one Anglican congregation in Tripoli, made up mostly of African immigrant workers in Tripoli and which belongs to the Egyptian Anglican diocese. The Anglican bishop of Libya has his seat in Cairo.[2] There is also a priest in Sabha.[2] There is only a few, though growing, number of native Libyan Arab and Berber converts to Christianity[citation needed].

There are relatively peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims in Libya. However, there are restrictions for Christian religious activity. It is prohibited to proselytize Muslims, even though a non-Muslim man must convert to Islam if he wants to marry a Muslim woman. Also, religious literature is restricted[citation needed].

Christian groups in Libya[edit]

Coptic Orthodox Church[edit]

Currently, there are 160,000 Copts in Libya, as they have many roots in North Africa (primarily Egypt).[1]

Historically speaking, Christianity spread to the Pentapolis in North Africa from Egypt;[3] Synesius of Cyrene (370-414), bishop of Ptolemais, received his instruction at Alexandria in both the Catechetical School and the Museion, and he entertained a great deal of reverence and affection for Hypatia, the last pagan Neoplatonists, whose classes he had attended. Synesius was raised to the episcopate by Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, in 410. Since the Council of Nicaea in 325, Cyrenaica had been recognized as an ecclesiastical province of the See of Alexandria, in accordance with the ruling of the Nicaean Fathers. The Pope of Alexandria to this day includes the Pentapolis in his title as an area within his jurisdiction.[4]

The Coptic congregations in several countries were under the ancient Eparchy of the Western Pentapolis, which was part of the Coptic Orthodox Church for centuries until the thirteenth century.[5]

In 1971 Pope Shenouda III reinstated it as part of the Eparchy of Metropolitan Bishop Pachomius, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Beheira (Thmuis & Hermopolis Parva), (Buto), Mariout (Mareotis), Marsa Matruh (Paraetonium), (Apis), Patriarchal Exarch of the Ancient Metropolis of Libya: (Livis, Marmarica, Darnis & Tripolitania) & Titular Metropolitan Archbishop of the Great and Ancient Metropolis of Pentapolis: (Cyren), (Appollonia), (Ptolemais), (Berenice) and (Arsinoe).

This was one among a chain of many restructuring of several eparchies by Pope Shenouda III, while some of them were incorporated into the jurisdiction of others, especially those who were within an uncovered region or which were part of a Metropolis that became extinct, or by dividing large eparchies into smaller more manageable eparchies. This was also a part of the restructuring of the Church as a whole.

They are currently three Coptic Orthodox Churches in Libya: one in Tripoli, Libya (Saint Mark's), one in Benghazi, Libya (Saint Antonios — two priests), and one in Misrata, Libya (Saint Mary and Saint George).[6]

Roman Catholic Church[edit]

Catholic Church of Bayda in 1940
The Cathedral of Tripoli in the 1960s.

There are about 50,000 Roman Catholics, mostly Italian Libyans and Maltese Libyans.[7]

The Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels) in the Old City - Medina of Tripoli was founded in 1645 and, with the permission of the Sultan of Constantinople, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Benghazi in 1858. Before World War II the number of Catholics increased in Libya due to Italian colonialism, but now the Catholic Cathedral of Tripoli (built in the 1930s) has been converted to a mosque.[8]

Roman Catholic Vicariates Apostolic exist in Benghazi, Derna and Tripoli. There is a Prefecture Apostolic in Misrata.

There are two Bishops, one in Tripoli (Bishop Giovanni Martinelli - serving the Italian community in the Church of San Francisco in Dhahra).[9] and one in Benghazi (Bishop Sylvester Carmel Magro - serving the Maltese community in the Church of the Immaculate Conception).[10]

In Libya currently there are four territorial jurisdictions - three Apostolic Administrations and one Apostolic Prefecture:

Pentecostals[edit]

There are Pentecostal worship groups in Libya in places like Tripoli and Misrata. These churches are primarily worship groups who gather together every Friday, led by Pentecostal pastors. Though these groups are not officially approved by the government of Libya, they practice their faith without any interference from the government[citation needed]. The following are the two known Pentecostal worship places:

  • Indian Prayer Fellowship, Tripoli
  • Global Faith Fellowship, Misrata

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]