11/06/2012, 00.00
EGYPT
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New Coptic Orthodox patriarch says no to Sharia-inspired constitution

In his first press release, Anba Tawadros II speaks out against Islamism's growing stranglehold on Egyptian society. For the head of the Coptic Church, Egypt is a great country because it is home to Christians and Muslims. Pope Benedict XVI and President Morsi send their greetings. Salafists reject any relations with Christians and occupy an area of the diocese of Shobra el-Khema (Cairo).

Cairo (AsiaNews) - For Anba Tawadros II, the newly elected patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Christians and other minorities should have their place in the future Egyptian constitution, which has become hostage to Islamists following the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in recent elections.

In his first press release, the prelate said that the Church would oppose any step taken by the constituent assembly to impose Islamic law on the country. "If the constitution addresses one part of the community and ignores another it will take society backwards," he said. "The beauty of Egyptian society is the presence of Muslims beside Christians. Diversity is strong and beautiful," he added.

Elected on Sunday, Anba Tawadros II was the bishop Behayra (Rosetta, Nile Delta). A trained pharmacist, he studied at the Anba Bishoy Monastery and has been committed to the reunification of all the Churches, especially of Copts dispersed around the world.

Since his elections, messages of congratulations have been pouring in, including from Egyptian President Morsi and Pope Benedict XVI.

Today, he is set to receive a delegation from the Apostolic Nunciature to Egypt.

The replacement of Shenouda III is "a great figure who knows well the situation and problems of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Egyptian society," said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church. "He is only 60, and this gives Christians a lot of hope that his tenure will last a long time."

All the media in the country followed the process of electing the patriarch, a sign of the important place Christians have in this predominantly Muslim country.

Among Muslims, there were two kinds of reaction, according to Fr Greiche.

Leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood, including President Morsi, expressed positive comments, offering to work with the head of the Coptic Church to build the country. "Such a position bodes well for future relations with the country's political majority," Fr Greiche noted.

Salafists however ignored the event, refusing to congratulate the Christian community. Instead, they reiterated the primacy of Islam on the country.

"This nigth, Muslim extremists gathered in front of the seat of the Diocese of Shobra el-Khema (Cairo), blocking the entrance and shouting slogans against Christians, the patriarch and the president, They have taken over a plot of the diocese planting a sign with Ebad Al-Rahman Mosque", said the spokesman of the Catholic Church. "(S.C.)

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