and the Pope’s visit to the President
At the mosque in the satellite town of Tagammu al-Khamis east of Cairo, where President Mursi was receiving condolences for the death of his sister Fatma Mursi, 57, who died of
cancer yesterday, a high-level delegation from the Coptic Church offered the Church’s condolences to the President. The delegation included Archbishop of Beheira Anba Pachomeus and who also served as acting patriarch following the decease of Pope Shenouda III and until Pope Tawadros II was enthroned; Bishop of youth Anba Moussa; Anba Martirus, Bishop of the churches East of the Railway; Bishops-General Anba Boutros and Anba Yu’nnis; Bishop of Tanta Anba Pola; and the papal secretary Father Makari.
According to Anba Pachomeus, President Mursi is expected to receive Pope Tawadros II today in the presidential palace in Heliopolis, along with a Church delegation that will include, Anba Pachomeus, Anba Pola, Secretary of the Holy Synod Anba Bishoi, Anba Moussa and Bishop of Aswan Anba Hedra.
Following Pope Tawadros’s enthronement, President Mursi had asked him over to the presidential palace to ‘congratulate’ him on his enthronement, a move which enraged Coptic youth who considered it an act of arrogance vis-à-vis the Church and disrespect of her new head. Coptic movements and circles said that the President should have been attended the Pope’s enthronement, or should have at least visited him at St Mark’s had he really wished to congratulate him.
Anba Pachomeus told Watani that the new pope’s visit to the country’s ruler was an old protocol that had been followed for the past 100 years or so, and was concluded with a return visit by the ruler to the pope. It had been applied, he said, with Kings Fouad and Farouk, as well as with Presidents Nasser and Sadat.
Today’s visit by Pope Tawadros to President Mursi, Anba Pachomeus explained, is a protocol that does not warrant the anger displayed by the Coptic youth. “However,” he said, “the coming period might witness adjustments or amendments regarding such matters.”
Church withdrawal final
Anba Pachomeus confirmed that the withdrawal of the Egyptian Church from the Constituent Assembly that is currently writing a draft constitution for Egypt is final. He explained that decision to withdraw was agreed upon by Egypt’s three largest Churches: the Coptic Orthodox, the Coptic Catholic, and the Evangelical. “I signed the withdrawal statement, and addressed a personal letter on the matter to Judge Hussam al-Ghuryani who heads the Constituent Assembly,” Anba Pachomeus said. The decision is final, he said, as long as a single political stream [the Islamist stream] insists on imposing its hegemony and passing a constitution that does not represent all Egyptians.
Regarding the initiative taken by al-Azhar—the topmost Sunni authority in the world, based in Cairo—to ‘unite ranks’ and persuade the Church to reconsider its position, Anba Pachomeus told Watani that we need something more than ‘uniting ranks’. “The best interest of our homeland should remain our main focus. And as long as Islamist demands alone are taken into consideration, with complete disregard to what other Egyptians have to say, there appears to be no chance for a consensual constitutional to see light,” he said.
“The constitution is a national project,” Anba Pachomeus said. “No political faction whatsoever has the right to grant to or withdraw citizenship right.” He was commenting on the Salafi threat to annul article 3 of the draft constitution, which stipulates that Christians and Jews have the right to resort to their own legislation in regard to their family laws and appointment of religious leaders, in retaliation to the Church’s withdrawal.
Anba Pachomeus said that, if we end up with a constitution that is hostile to citizenship, it is better for the Church not to have been on the assembly that formulated it. Understandably, the Church’s participation in such a task would bestow on it legitimacy.
21 November 2012