Last Wednesday the Constitutional Court issued a ruling annulling a previous issued by the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) early last June and obliging Pope Shenouda III to issue remarriage permits to divorced Copts. At present the Church issues such permits to the wronged party alone; the other party can only get this permit conditionally or, in certain cases, not at all.
Commenting on the ruling, bishop-general Anba Ermiya said that it preserved the right of Copts to run their personal and family affairs according to the teachings of the Bible. He applauded the ruling, which he described as “historical”, confirming that it served the cause of citizenship rights for Copts.
“The matter of church marriage is a purely ‘religious’, as opposed to ‘civil’, one,” he said. “It is therefore the concern of the Church alone, and ought not be subject to court rulings.” Pope Shenouda had previously said that it was the role of the Church to apply the Bible teachings in case of marriage and divorce. Anyone who wished to apply different rules could resort to civil marriage, he said, since the Church could not go against its conscience and betray the Bible.
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church had last month, in the wake of the SAC ruling, issued a declaration which stated: “The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church announces that, even though the Church respects the judicial system, judicial rulings are not binding to the church where matters of faith are concerned. Marriage in the Church is one of the seven sacraments.”
11 July 2010