Friday, November 9, 2012

New Egyptian pope Tawadros II: 'We won't encourage Copts to visit Jerusalem'

Tawadros II

Al Ahram Online has put together a number of statements that the newly elected Coptic pope made in the last days in a few interviews with Egyptian TV-stations. Together they give an insight in how Tawadros II sees the role of the church in the years to come.
To begin with Tawadros stated that the church has "no political role." That is reserved for Egypt's political parties, the church, on the other hand, should only play a "spiritual and social role."
He also said that he backed the late pope Shenouda III's decision to ban Egypt's Copts from visiting Jerusalem until the issue of Palestine has been justly resolved. "There's a peace treaty between the governments [of Egypt and Israel], but the Egyptian public rejects the notion of normalisation with Israel," he said. "We won't encourage Copts to visit Jerusalem, as we can't accept the idea of Copts selling out the Arab cause."

The new pope is agaist  parliamentary quota for Coptic MPs. "Rather, we must gradually prepare Egyptian society, with the support of political parties, to accept Coptic parliamentarians – only 30 in the beginning, perhaps, before gradually increasing the percentage of Coptic representatives," he said.
Regarding Egypt's controversial draft constitution, he said: "The constitution should be written for all Egyptians, despite their religious affiliations. The church will oppose any constitutional article that only takes into account the interests of the Muslim majority."
Regarding the relationship between the church and the administration of President Mohamed Morsi, Tawadros II said: "The president was democratically elected by the Egyptian people, and is therefore the president of all Egyptians and a symbol of post-revolution Egypt. The church will deal with him with love as it always has." Tawadros II sees "no need to fear" Egypt's new Islamist leadership, as long as it "rules with justice." He added that Egypt's revolution was "not over," saying: "It's only been two years; revolutions require longer periods to achieve their objectives."
Asked about the church's controversial 1938 bylaws – which lay down rules governing Coptic divorce and remarriage – Pope Tawadros II asserted that "everything is open for discussion, especially since these bylaws were written by secularists and not clergymen. We must find solutions to satisfy critics, but not at the expense of biblical teachings."
On the issue of church-building, he said: "I don't understand why building churches is so difficult. I'm sure that passing a unified law for building churches will hinder extremists from trespassing on church lands as happened last Monday, when a group of Salafist Muslims occupied church land in Cairo's Shubra Al-Kheima district."

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