By Shelby Lin Erdman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
The Coptic Orthodox Church was founded in the first century around 50 AD in Alexandria, Egypt by the Apostle Mark, making it one of the earliest Christian denominations. Mark was the first pope of the Coptic Christian Church, which shares many practices and beliefs with the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Coptic Orthodox Church splintered from Rome and the Eastern Orthodox churches in the 5th century. The Coptic Catholic Church split off at the same time, but has since reunited with Roman Catholics and Pope Francis.
It's difficult to find an accurate estimate of the exact number of Copts in Egypt because the church puts the number as high as 18 million, while the Egyptian government puts the population at around six million. There's about one million Coptic Christians living outside Egypt, according to some estimates, in Africa, the Middle East and United States.
The first Christians in Egypt were called Copts because of the ancient form of Egyptian that they spoke. The word "Coptic" comes from a Greek word meaning "Egyptian," and describes a person from Egypt. While the Coptic denomination was first founded in Alexandria, which remains the symbolic headquarters, the church is now based in Cairo at St. Mark's Cathedral.
Copts are the frequent target of attacks by Islamic extremists like ISIS. The early church was first persecuted by Romans, then, with the rise of Islam in Egypt in the 7th century, Copts were persecuted by Muslims.