In a candid talk with CTV Coptic satellite channel last evening, Pope Tawadros II aired his views regarding several imminent issues
In a candid talk with CTV Coptic satellite channel last evening, Pope Tawadros II aired his views regarding several imminent issues.
The Pope said that, during his visit to President Mursi that morning, he had offered his condolences to the President for the death of his sister, and thanked him for sending a representative to attend the Pope’s enthronement.
The Church’s withdrawal from the Constituent Assembly
The President had asked about the reasons behind the Church’s withdrawal from the Constituent Assembly that is currently writing a draft for Egypt’s new constitution. “Anba Pola, who represented the Church in the assembly,” Pope Twadros said, “was present, and he talked in detail on what took place inside the assembly, and why the Church withdrew.”
The Church had officially announced its withdrawal from the assembly last Friday, citing as reason that the assembly had deviated form its original task of writing a consensual constitution that would represent all Egyptians, and was instead being hegemonised by one political stream, the Islamist. The Church said it had worked hard to cooperate in the efforts to write the new constitution, and had arduously tried to iron out differences and reach a consensual version, until it was absolutely clear that a single political current [the Islamist] was imposing its vision, to the exclusion of all other components of the Egyptian community. The Pope explained that the decision to withdraw form the assembly had been taken two days before he was enthroned, during a meeting over which the then acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus presided, and in which 70 constitutional and legal experts and intellectuals took part. When the withdrawal decision was put to the vote, 60 voted for the Church’s withdrawal, five voted for freezing its membership in the assembly, and five voted for proceeding with the assembly.
The President, Pope Tawadros said, suggested a meeting next Friday between a number of Constituent Assembly members and Church representatives, to mull over the differences and reach common ground. “The final decision is in our hands,” the Pope said. “We will listen to them and, if the result achieves a consensual vision, this is what we are after.”
The 1957 Bylaws
Pope Tawadros broached the topic of amending the 1957 Bylaws which govern the selection of the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and which has been widely criticised for being out of touch with today’s Egyptian and global variables, and for being unclear about specific canonical details.
The Pope said that he has charged the 18-person—nine members of the clergy and nine of the laity—committee over which Beheira Archbishop Anba Pochomeus presides, and which had managed the papal elections, to draw a new set of bylaws to replace the 1957 Bylaws. “This committee,” Pope Tawadros said, “is the most qualified to look into the matter, since it is already familiar with all the intricacies and predicaments of the 1957 Bylaws, and has a good vision of the amendments needed.”
The committee, the Pope said, is expected to take some four months to draw a draft of the new bylaws. For some other four months the draft will be scrutinised by the experts, and the door will be open to contesting and appealing the articles proposed. Once this task is successfully completed, a final version of the new bylaws should be drawn, and this should take its legal course until it is enacted. The full process, he said, should take some 12 months.
The missing women
When asked about the ‘disappearance’ of Coptic young women, the majority of them under age, who are made to convert to Islam and are seduced into marriage by Muslim men; the Pope replied that it is a disgrace to the Egyptian society in its entirety that such practices are condoned.
“My heart aches for these young women and their families,” he said. “Which is not to absolve their families of their part in frequently creating a home climate hostile to these girls and thus make it easy for them to give in to the slightest temptation.” The disgrace, he said, involves their families as well as the entire community; both fall short of offering the girls the nurture and protection due to them.
“The State does nothing to implement the law [which stipulates that no minor is entitled to take such life-changing decisions as conversion or marriage] and find these girls and return them to their families or to some safe refuge till they are of age,” he said.
“The entire matter,” Pope Twadros said, “is not about religion, but about the basic rights of these girls and their families as human beings.”
In reply to demands that the Church should take a strict stance on this issue. the Pope said that unbending positions only serve to generate obstinate responses by those in authority. “We demand that the rule of law should be upheld,” he said, “because I again say that the manner in which these girls are treated is a disgrace to Egypt in its entirety.”
22 November 2012