Following the gruesome discovery of the corpse of Bishop Epiphanius, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church announced that authorities would be officially investigating the death.
Bishop Epiphanius,68, was the head of Anba Makar Monastery (Saint Macarius the Great) near Wadi el-Natroun. The church issued a statement on Sunday that the bishop had died in ‘strange circumstances.’
It was report by local media that another monk at the monastery, Father Basil, revealed that the bishop was found in a pool of blood in his room, with fractures to his skull, as if he had been struck with a instrument, and injuries to his back.
“In light of mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, the authorities were called and they are now carrying out their investigations,” Coptic Church spokesperson Boulos Halim said in a statement.
Preliminary investigations suggested that an unknown person may have hit the Bishop’s head with a sharp instrument as he was leaving the monastic cell, which is a domed building monks frequently visit for worship, usually in remote areas.
The bishop’s body was transferred to the morgue of Wadi Al-Natroun General Hospital. The prosecution has appointed a forensic doctor for the autopsy, to help confirm the cause of death and the instrument used in the incident.
The bishop joined the monastery in 1984 and was elected as its head in 2013.
Although Egypt’s Copts constitute 10% of the population (while some claiming that figures are actually closer to 15%), they have been often targets of sectarian violence.
The Copts have been also targeted by Islamic militants, namely the Helwan Church attack last year, in which nine were killed as well as the bombings of Mar Girgis and St Mark’s cathedrals in Tanta and Alexandria in which more than 40 people were killed.
ISIS claimed responsibility for all these attacks.
Currently, churches in Egypt are continuously protected by outside security, with special scrutiny as to whom to permit inside.