Cairo (AsiaNews) - In his first interview on 14 November since
he became head of the Orthodox Coptic Church, Tawadros II spoke to the Daily News Egypt on a number of issues, including the freedom to
build churches, Muslim-Christian dialogue, the greater place proposed for Sharia
in the constitution, Coptic exodus and the education of young people.
For the successor of Shenouda III,
the possible Islamisation of the state is also major cause of concern, not only
for Christians, but for all Egyptians, who will have to submit to the will of a
minority. This is clearly evinced by the make-up of the constituent assembly,
which the Orthodox Coptic Church and pro-democracy parties have boycotted
because it is under thumb of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists.
In the interview, the patriarch
focuses on the role of young people in carrying out the Jasmine Revolution and breaking
down the wall of isolation and fear that held Copts back for decades. Their desire
for truth and justice can be fulfilled by showing that the real answer lies in
Elected on 5 November, Tawadros II took
office yesterday morning as patriarch of Cairo's Saint Mark's Cathedral. The trilingual
(Arabic, English and French) ceremony was performed before hundreds of faithful
and dozens of civic and religious authorities. President Morsi was represented
by Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, who arrived late by two hours.
Here is the full interview.
One of the
most crucial issues for Christians in Egypt is the Unified Law on Houses of
Worship, and church construction law, which restricts the construction and
maintenance of churches. Will the church, under your leadership, intervene in
belongs to the state and not the church. This particular issue has caused
several crises over the years. The problem of constructing churches comes up so
often, as it's a matter of the right to freedom of worship; one of the primary
rights afforded by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. It will be
extremely dangerous when Copts are not granted their right to freedom of
worship in Egypt. The problem [Copts face when building churches] occurs, time
and time again, and is not met with a decisive and powerful response by the
state. We have been hearing about the Law on Houses of Worship, and about the
regulation of church construction. However, until this day we have seen nothing
[from the government].
personal affairs, such as marriage and divorce, have been controversial topics
in Coptic society. How would you comment on this?
should be built upon modern and rational concepts. Secondly, there are two
important terms; talaq and tatliq. These are legal
terms. Talaq, or divorce in Christianity, can only be enforced in case of
adultery, either by action or thought. When such sin happens, the sinful party
is denied the church's permission to remarry. The other party is free to
remarry. The church does not grant the sinful party permission to remarry since
he has not been faithful in the first marriage. He was enjoying a correct marital
life, and proved to be dishonest; how come then would he be entrusted with
another marriage? Someone, and forgive my figurative sense, works in a bank and
steals, can we still employ him in the bank?
it is an entirely different matter. It is a case where a marriage was
erroneously initiated without our knowledge. Reasons might be physical or
psychological illness, or several other things. In such an event, both parties
file a complaint with the church, namely the Clerical Council. The complaint is
then studied, in the case that the plaintiffs are right, they acquire what is
termed as voidable marriage, meaning it is as if the marriage had
not taken place. Imagine we built a three storey building, before discovering
that the foundations are unsuitable, what can we do? Do we allow people to move
especially women, complain their right to inheritance is subject to Islamic
Shari'a. What's your view on this?
issue Islamic Shari'a is enforced, meaning that the male receives twice the
female's share [of inheritance]. Most Christian families apply these rules in
accordance with the Shari'a law, through the courts. [But they manage to]
amicably settle their inheritance matters [among themselves]. In the end it is
the Islamic inheritance law that is being applied.
comes at a time when there are many more Copts living abroad than when your
predecessor was enthroned. With regards to expatriate Copts, do you intend to
conduct visits abroad? Many more Copts have emigrated since the revolution.
don't know why?
referring to their fear of the Muslim Brothers?
I didn't say
it, it was you!
But what is
present Bishop Tawadros with a new banner celebrating his ascension to the
When a certain society frightens and expels its offspring, mankind, the most
precious thing on Egyptian soil; such a society is losing [out].
church work on calling on the recent emigrants to return?
I first want
to tell you something. Why do we call them "expatriate Copts" rather than
"Christians" or "Egyptians"? At the start, they are Egyptians who decided to
migrate. Had they been Muslim or Copts, they are first and last, Egyptians.
Egyptians present in any country in the world, are considered a continuum of
Egypt. In other words, Egypt is represented in European society through
Egyptians, and is also represented in American society through Egyptians. There
are Copts, yes. We consider a church to be a popular embassy of Egypt. An
embassy that serves Egypt, and that regulates the life of Egyptian expats. Of
course in due time I will be visiting our churches as part of my duties.
known as being one of the disciples of Bishop Pachomious, and one of the
closest people to Pope Shenouda III. Will you continue on the same path, or
direct the course of the Egyptian church in a different direction?
adopted by Pope Shenouda is a moderate one. The same is true for the path
followed by Bishop Pachomious. I am generally leaning towards being
moderate. Extremism towards either the right or the left is not
acceptable. We as Egyptians, have the Nile River crossing the middle of our
land, we were all taught this in geography. This Nile River flowing in the
middle teaches us to be moderate.
What do you
expect of the relationship between the Egyptian church and the presidency under
Muslim Brotherhood rule?
are open to anyone. My heart is open to everyone, and this is true for my
fathers and brothers among the bishops and priests. We do not close our doors
or hearts in the face of any human being.
What is the
expected relationship between your institution and the Muslim Brotherhood?
full of respect, love, compassion, and peace. Two days ago we had a visit from
the representatives of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Wadi Al-Natrun,
where the monastery is located. They asked me what I would wish for from the
FJP. I replied that I request two things from the FJP; freedom and justice, only.
taken any decisions with regards to amending the patriarchal elections law?
this is considered the first decision I made. It is true that I have not yet
practised my regular work, and have not yet travelled to Cairo, but this was my
first decision. We have formed a committee comprising of members of the
electoral organising committee. The number of the committee was 18, half of
whom are bishops and priests, the other half consists of legal experts and
consultants. I requested from the committee to prepare a draft of a new
patriarchal elections law, to be presented to a church discussion panel, prior
to being presented to the responsible authorities.
increasing the number of candidates among the suggested amendments?
amendments include increasing the number of candidates, the expansion of the
definition of diocese, which are geographical domains assigned to every bishop.
The amendments also mention our churches abroad. I want to tell you that when
the law was brought in, in 1957, the number of bishops was thirteen. Today, the
number of bishop is almost 100. If, among the thirteen bishops in the old law,
we take nine to represent the committee, how many will we choose from the
current hundred? These are parts of the amendments.
are been calling for the complete implementation of Islamic Shari'a. What will
be the church's response if this actually happens?
Shari'a is a religious matter, isn't it? It is applied on man in his
relationship with God. It is not then a social order that can be implemented on
any person. If this happens [implementation of Shari'a law], we have many
responses and many ideas. I expect the society to respect everyone belonging to
it; Egyptians, Muslims and Christians. If my Muslim brother would hurt my
feelings, being his brother sharing the same homeland, what else is left? This
is the responsibility of the Muslim majority of Egypt.
How do you
comment on the draft constitution? And do you foresee that the constitution
will be issued in this current form?
constitution should remain under the umbrella of citizenship. The common factor
that brings us on Egyptian soil is that you are a citizen, and I am a citizen,
both holding Egyptian citizenship. You are Muslim, I completely respect you,
and I am Christian, you completely respect me. You have your own worshipping
methods and personal or family traditions, this is totally respected. It cannot
happen that I focus on a marginal section [of society] and take it as a general
case. The draft constitution discussed numerous matters. Some are on the side
of the extreme right, while others are maintaining the extreme left. Meanwhile,
the moderate voice is gradually diminishing.
be your solution be to the current polarised political climate?
lies in being clear with ourselves. The truth is that the formation of the
Constituent Assembly is not the solution. The current formation does represent
all Egyptians justly.
What is your
opinion regarding the place of Copts in the cabinet, in light of the promises
made by President Mohamed Morsi?
touching on difficult issues. I do not care about how many ministers are
Christians or Muslims. What I care about is [having] a cabinet of ministers of
an acceptable calibre. I look to the efficiency of the responsible person,
whether president, minister, or manager, and not to his religious affiliation.
How do you
see the role of the Coptic youth of the church? What about the role of the
Maspero Youth Movement and the Coalition of Egyptian Copts?
are like a golden link in a chain[Egyptian saying]. Pope Shenouda had a very
nice saying, "youth without church, youth without future."
decades preceding the revolution, there was a pressure being exerted on Copts,
and there was marginalisation and a compulsion to step away from everything.
the revolution, the fear barrier was broken, and the gates of freedom have
become wide open before the youth. In the old days, whenever there was a
problem, the youth used to demonstrate in the cathedral. Now there are good
movements. Some have become accustomed to demonstrating in front of parliament,
the cabinet, and the surrounding streets.
youth, on the global level, demand dialogue, outreach and communication, like
youth around the world. They cannot
accept things as they are. This logic does not work with them anymore. I want
to give you a little idea. Previously, people were brought up through the
family, the school, the church, and the mosque. Today, upbringing is performed
by three elements, the TV, the computer with the internet and all of the social
media websites, and third, the mobile phone. Three screens are the ones bringing
up our youth. As such, today's youth are facing a great deal of disturbance.
They need to be spiritually filled, and to engage in a spiritual relationship
with God. They need to fill their hearts as they fill their brains. The church
will support the youth spiritually.