Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church Tawadros II is in Jerusalem to attend the funeral of the Coptic Archbishop of the Holy Land Anba Abraham. The funeral will be held tomorrow. The visit came as a surprise to civil and religious authorities because for 35 years a veto has been in place for the Copts to visit the Holy Land. The Patriarch was welcomed at the Notre Dame Center, owned by the Holy See.
Although Egypt has signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, in 1980 the predecessor of Tawadros, Shenouda III had forbidden Coptic faithful from traveling to Jerusalem on pilgrimage until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved.
The spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, Fr. Boulos Halim, said, however, that Tawadros traveled to the holy city "for the funeral and nothing else" and that "the Church's position remains the same."
In a television interview broadcast by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, the same Tawadros says: "I do not consider this visit as a prepared visit, with a program and appointments. I consider this a human duty to offer my condolences ... given my position, it would have been a dereliction of my duties not to come here. "
Anba Abraham died on 25 November. He was born June 30, 1943 in the province of Sohag in southern Egypt. He became a monk in 1984 and a priest in 1990, he was chosen in 1992 as head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Holy Land. Unlike his predecessor, whose body was taken to Egypt, Abraham for his to be buried in Jerusalem.
It must be said that, despite the ban, dozens of Coptic pilgrims travel in Jerusalem every year, especially during the Easter holidays. The seat of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate is the ninth station of the Via Dolorosa.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the smallest communities in the Holy City, where it also has a small chapel in the Holy Sepulchre and the monastery of St. Anthony. It is, however, the largest Christian community in the Middle East, mainly concentrated in Egypt, where it counts for between 6 and 10% of the 90 million population.