The Church has received the official decision by the Cabinet legalising 53 unlicensed churches and church-affiliated community service buildings, said Father Mikhail Antoun, representative of the Coptic Church in the Cabinet’s committee for legalising the status of unlicensed churches. He explained that the Cabinet decision includes a list of the 53 churches legalised, which are located in six parishes: Giza, al-Wadi al-Gadeed, Akhmeem, Tahta, Esna and Mansoura.
On 26 February 2018, the Cabinet’s Committee for legalising the status of unlicensed churches had approved the legalisation of 53 churches and church-affiliated community service buildings. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Sherif Isamil, and attended by the ministers of housing, justice, antiquities, parliamentary affairs and local development, as well representatives of the authorities concerned. The committee said the upcoming Cabinet meeting should officially confirm the approvals, provided conditions relating to civil protection are met by the churches within four months, and dues relating to legalisation of the status of the lands on which these buildings stand are paid to the State.
Now that 53 churches have been legalised, the number of de-facto, non-licensed churches that stand in line waiting for legalisation amounts to 3677 churches nationwide, belonging to various Christian denominations in Egypt. These churches had been built without licence since, until the Law for Building and Restoring Churches was passed in September 2016, it was next to impossible to obtain official licence to build or restore a church. Copts, who direly needed churches in view of the growing congregation and the declining conditions of existing churches, thus resorted to circumventing the law and building churches without licence. The 2016 law includes provisions for legalising unlicensed churches and church-affiliated buildings.
Father Mikhail told Watani that the committee’s decision was a positive step which paved the road for more legalisations. Gamil Halim, legal advisor to the Catholic Church, said that the move called for optimism and, according to the law, every month from now on should bring new decisions of legalisation for consecutive lists of churches, till all are finally legalised.
18 March 2018