Three Coptic Orthodox monks murdered in their monastery in South Africa

A crucifix is pictured in a file photo as Coptic Christians pray in Cairo. In the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of South Africa, three Egyptian Coptic monks were brutally murdered March 12, 2024, in their monastery in Cullinan, a small town about 18 miles east of the capital, Pretoria. (OSV News photo/via Reuters)

(OSV News) — Three Egyptian Coptic monks of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of South Africa were brutally murdered March 12 in their monastery in Cullinan, a small town in Gauteng province, about 18 miles east of the capital, Pretoria.

According to a March 13 statement from the Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the three slain was Father Takla Moussa, assistant bishop and abbot of St. Mark and St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery. The other two were identified as Fathers Minah ava Marcus and Youstos ava Marcus. In what the Church described as a criminal attack, an unknown assailant pounced on the monks in the early hours of March 12, killing the three, all of whom were found with stab wounds. A fourth monk was left with injuries.

“The Church expresses its deep anguish over the occurrence of such a tragic incident, extends its sincere condolences to the families of the three monks,” Coptic Orthodox Church said in a statement. “Our pain and sadness, no amount (of) words can express, but we know that they rejoice in paradise.”

The motive of the attack is not clear, but it further underlined the current challenge in the country, which has one of the highest rates of violence in the world. Recently, the country has grappled with sporadic and lethal xenophobic attacks against African and Asian foreign nationals living in the country, including refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.

In South Africa, there are 12 Orthodox churches, a school and a training center. There are 11 priests and 120 deacons serving about 15,000 members, or more than 4,500 families. Bishop Antonious Markos leads the South Africa Archdiocese.

In the statement, Church officials said South African people, the Black community in particular, loved Father Moussa, and hoped he would be ordained their bishop.

“This is a great loss for us. We will never find a father like Father Takla Moussa, who loved and served us unconditionally for about 20 years since he has been in South Africa,” it said.

Leaders worldwide condemned the killings, which sent shockwaves among Coptics in South Africa and other regions.

In Ethiopia, Orthodox Archbishop Abune Henok of Addis Ababa said he was saddened by deaths while the Coptic Archbishop Angaelos of London described the killing as saddening and shocking.

“In this holy Lenten period we pray (for the) repose (of) our departed brothers, and comfort for our Coptic Orthodoxy community in South Africa, their brother monks, and their families and loved ones,” said Archbishop Angaelos in a March 12 post on X, formerly Twitter.

On March 13, news reports indicated the police had launched an investigation into the incident and had arrested an Egyptian member of the Coptic Church as a suspect in the case.

The police said the bodies of the monks had knife injuries and a surviving monk had talked of being attacked with metal bars.

The Egyptian Embassy in South Africa called for calm and conveyed its condolences to the Coptic Orthodox Church and families of the deceased. The embassy urged the South Africans and Egyptians to allow the law to take its course.


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