The Cabinet-affiliated committee in charge of examining the cases of non-licensed de-facto churches has held its second meeting on 28 November.
According to the Law for Building and Restoring Churches which went into effect in September 2016, non-licensed churches were required to submit applications for legalising their statues one year after the law was passed, meaning the deadline for application was September 2017. The first meeting of the Cabinet-affiliated committee was held in October 2017, a month following the deadline. The numbers of churches requiring licensing were 2,600 Coptic Orthodox churches, 110 Catholic churches, and 1020 Evangelical churches; all in all 3730 churches.
For centuries on end, Copts had taken to building churches without licence or worshipping in makeshift de-facto or house churches, owing to the near impossibility of obtaining official licence to build a church. The 2016 law, which regulates and eases the building of churches, made provisions for legalising the status of existing non-licensed churches.
Father Mikhail Antoun, who was among those in charge of listing non-licensed Coptic Orthodox churches, told Watani that the committee is now in the process of conducting field inspections and studying the structural safety reports of the churches requiring licensing. He said: “We are waiting for the final inspection and structural safety reports in order for licences to be issued accordingly.” He stressed that the committee was working assiduously to speed up the licensing process; “there is no procrastination,” he said.
“With close to 3,800 churches awaiting legalisation,” said Nabil Naguib, media representative of the Evangelical Church in Egypt, “it’s bound to be a long process.”
For his part, lawyer Gamil Halim, legal consultant to the Catholic Church, expected the first batch of licences to be issued within the coming two months; “the rest will follow in turn,” he said.
3 December 2017