Pope Tawadros II flew to Cairo last evening, Tuesday 13 May, home from the United Arab Emirates where he had been on a five-day visit
. The Pope had been there on official invitation from Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan President of the UAE, the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed, Ruler of Dubai. They had dispatched a private jet to fly Pope Tawadros from Cairo to Abu Dhabi airport last Friday.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed”
The Pope visited the mosque and shrine of Sheikh Zayed Al Nahayan, and met with the top State figures in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharja. He expressed his happiness at being in the UAE, and thanked them for their invitation which he said was the first he had received from an Arab country. Pope Tawadros applauded what he described as the tolerance and love displayed by the rulers and people of the UAE towards Egypt and her people, and the support they so generously granted the country during the difficult times following the overthrow of the Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in July 2013. “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” the Pope said.
“The UAE has also cared equally for all Egyptians on its land,” he said, “never discriminating between Muslims or Christians. We have been allowed to build churches here, confirming that the State and the people embrace tolerance and coexistence, and respect other faiths. This makes the UAE a positive role model.
“Thanks to the invaluable support of the UAE and other Arab brethren, Egypt will surely regain its distinctive role in the region and the world,” he said.
In Sharja, the Pope visited Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammed al-Qassemi, and praised the cultural progress achieved there.
For his part, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed stressed that the UAE supported Egypt’s ambitions to build a new, modern State based on hard work and development, and far removed from extremism and terrorism. “We have constantly stood by Egypt since the time of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan, and will continue to do so indiscriminately,” he said.
With the Coptic congregation
On his first day in Abu-Dhabi, the Pope met with the Coptic congregation, who were elated at his presence among them. He delivered his first sermon there, talking about success and referring to the first Psalm which stresses that adhering to God is the sure way to proceed along the path to success.
The following day the Pope presided over Holy Mass at the church of Anba Antonius (St Anthony), following which he attended an event held in his honour at the church, during which several church choirs gave performances. These included hymns and praises sung by Ethiopian, Philippine, and children choirs. The children gave the Pope flowers and were delighted at the chance to have photos with him.
At Sharja, Pope Tawadros consecrated a new altar at the church of the Holy Virgin and Abu-Seifien (St Mercurius), and baptised three children.
In his meetings with the congregation, the Pope confirmed the Coptic Church’s stance on staying away from politics. He said the Church was not supporting any particular candidate in the upcoming Egyptian presidential elections; every Copt was free to make up his or her mind. He insisted the Church had not changed its stance on disapproving Copts’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land as long as all other Egyptians rejected normalisation with Israel.
Accompanying the Pope were Anba Abraham, Bishop of Jerusalem; Anba Abra’am of Fayoum; Anba Lucas of Abnoub and Fath; Anba Gawargious of Matai; the papal secretaries Fr Angaelus Ishaq and Fr Ammonius Adel; and the deacon Hany Naguib.
In the Visitors Book at the Egyptian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Pope Tawadros wrote: “Love never fails”.
14 May 2014