Response to Jersey Journal Articles Regarding St. Abanoub & St. Antonious in Bayonne

The Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark is dismayed by false accusations and misinformation published by the Jersey Journal on October 12th and 13th regarding service at the neighboring St. Abanoub and St. Antonious Coptic Orthodox Church in Bayonne.

The article of October 13th makes an outrageous statement that St. Mark’s is motivated by corruption in order to take over St. Abanoub’s. The truth is that St. Abanoub’s faces administrative, financial, engineering, spiritual and behavioral challenges that require special managerial expertise and spiritual leadership. The protest inside the church with a few  protesters exhibiting unacceptable behavior during a worship service is one of the outcomes of such challenges that need to be addressed. St. Abanoub’s has been the subject of unrest for more than fourteen years with numerous challenges being raised to the late H.H. Pope Shenouda III and H.G. Bishop David, the previous General Bishop of the Archdiocese of North America. Because of these continuing issues and the lack of improvement, H.H. Pope Tawadros II, the current patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church created a committee to review the complaints received. The committee was comprised of H.G. Bishop Karas, the General Bishop of the Archdiocese of North America, Hegumen Rev. Fr. Abraam Sleman, the senior priest of the nearby Coptic Church of St. Mark of Jersey City and one of the most senior priests in New Jersey, and Hegumen Rev. Fr. Moises Boghdady of the Archdiocese of St. Mark in Cedar Grove. The committee presented their findings to H.H. Pope Tawadros and based on these findings His Holiness issued a papal decree reassigning the two priests serving the church and appointing Rev. Fr. Abraam Sleman to manage the administrative and spiritual affairs of the church. Rev. Fr. Abraam was elevated to the rank of Hegumen (Archpriest) in September of 2003 by the Late H.H. Pope Shenouda III. Ecclesiastically, a Hegumen can oversee the affairs of many churches.

Eight months ago, H.H. Pope Tawadros requested of Fr. Abraam to manage the affairs of the church.  In obedience to His Holiness Pope Tawadros, Fr. Abraam accepted the assignment and began to manage the affairs of the church of St. Abanoub.  Fr. Abraam shortly thereafter resigned, citing lack of cooperation. Afterwards, the Hegumen Rev.  Fr. Moises Boghdady was appointed to oversee the church and he also resigned for the very same reason. Alleging that St. Mark’s Church, Fr. Abraam or other priests of the church are attempting a “take-over” has no basis or merit.  Fr. Abraam agreed to take over the responsibility of managing St. Abanoub’s Church out of insistence by and obedience to H.H. Pope Tawadros despite St. Mark’s Church of Jersey City being in the midst of the massive construction project of its Community Center–a project that requires the full attention of its senior priest. St Abanoub’s Church is in dire need of the support of a well established church such as St. Mark’s, with all what God has granted her. It is disappointing that the Jersey Journal would publish such a claim without first requesting a comment from St. Mark’s Church, which it had already interviewed for its previous article on October 10th.

The article of October 12th and the headline of the October 13th article claim that Fr. Abraam Sleman arrived to St. Abanoub’s with a police escort which is patently false.  Fr. Abraam arrived at St. Abanoub’s at 8:00am on Sunday, October 12th in his personal car without any police escort. Protesters had requested a permit to demonstrate outside St. Abanoub’s Church and based on that the Bayonne Police Department provided one police car that was parked outside of church. The police car drove around patrolling the church. The church did not request police presence ahead of time. This simple fact, that was the headline of the Jersey Journal’s article, could have easily been verified with the Bayonne Police Department instead of taking a one-sided statement from a protester, whose self-serving statement only worked to inflame an already volatile situation.   The Bayonne Police Department was then later called by local church parishioners when a small minority of protesters did not demonstrate outside church but rather entered the church shouting and screaming, interrupted the worship service and verbally assaulted clergy and other congregants.

As a well respected newspaper, the Jersey Journal is responsible for its news reporting and should have, at the very least, verified its statements before making them in the print and online editions.  Furthermore, the Jersey Journal, by printing such blatant lies, have served to defame St. Mark’s Church and its Reverend Father.  St. Mark’s Church is the first Coptic Church in the Western Hemisphere whose reputation is untarnished.  Such reckless reporting serves to damage said reputation.  It’s one thing to quote an individual.  It’s a completely different thing to state facts that you knew, or should have known, to be false.   A correction is hereby demanded and we request that any future reporters fact-check their allegations in order to not further inflame an already sensitive situation and to not defame members of this community.

St. Mark’s Church, its clergy, deacons, servants and congregation pray for the peace and safety of its sister church, St. Abanoub and St. Antonious.  We pray that the media exercise wisdom in dealing with this matter.

For press comments, please contact Mr. Joseph M. Ghabour, Esq.,  the Deacon of Public Relations at 732 705 7105 or ghabour@gmail.com.   You can find more information about St. Mark’s at: http://SaintMark.com