Egypt’s Coptic Pope makes historic visit to Israel

Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II left for Jerusalem Thursday for the funeral of a senior cleric, the first visit by the head of Coptic Christians in decades, a church spokesman said.

He will attend the funeral of Archbishop Anba Abraham, the head of the Coptic Church in Israel who died on Wednesday at the age of 73.

Egyptian Copts were forbidden from visiting Israel by their late Pope Shenouda III, who was traditionally careful not to provoke an already-hostile Muslim majority in Egypt by being seen to stray from the anti-Israel sentiments of most Egyptians.

Shenouda passed away in 2012 after leading the ancient orthodox church for 40 years. His successor Tawadros II has been seen as somewhat more willing to assert himself and the Coptic community in General, throwing his weight behind the army's overthrow of the Islamist government of Mohammed Morsi, and issuing an edict in August banning Copts from joining the Salafist Nour party. 

But the Coptic Church played down any political significance to this trip. 

"The visit is to attend the funeral and nothing more," church spokesman Boulos Halim told AFP.

"The position of the church remains unchanged, which is not going to Jerusalem without all our Egyptian (Muslim) brothers."

Despite the ban, hundreds of Egyptian Copts have visited Israel over the past few years during Easter.

Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christian minority – whose presence predates the arrival of Islam and accompanying Arab conquest by centuries – account for around 10% of the total population in the Arab world's most populous country, but have been the target of waves of deadly attacks by Muslim extremists. That was the case particularly after the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, when Islamist terrorists and Muslim mobs murdered scores of Copts and burned down many churches and Coptic homes and businesses.

AFP contributed to this report.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *