Cairo (AsiaNews) - Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Church has thanked Catholics for the election of the new pope and sends its greetings to the new Bishop of Rome, Francis.
In a telegram sent last night, Tawadros II, patriarch of Orthodox Copts, expressed his personal greeting to the pope. "News of your election as head of the Catholic Church fills my heart with joy," said the telegram. "I congratulate you and the cardinals wholeheartedly for this blessed choice. Your Holiness, I wish you good health and long life, that through your work the Catholic Church may grow and bear witness to Christ in the entire world."
Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand Imam at Al-Azhar, the world's main Sunni university, also sent his congratulations. In his message, the Muslim leader, who broke off relations with the Vatican in 2010 during Benedict XVI's pontificate, stressed however that "Islam asks for respect from the new pontiff." For many, al-Tayeb's statement is a sign of openness by the Sunni university, but his message to Francis follows similar ones made in the past.
Over the years, al-Tayeb has in fact on several occasions called on Benedict XVI to issue an official apology for a plea he made on behalf of Christians murdered in the Middle East during New Year's Mass in 2011, which he made in the wake of the horrendous attack of 31 December 2010 at the al-Qidissin (Saints) Coptic Church in Alexandria that left dozens dead, as well as the mass slaughter of Christians at Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad.
Speaking about media coverage of the papal election, Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, said that the local press is also divided between those who welcome the election of the pope, an show respect for the Catholic Church, and those who reprint stories that have appeared in the West's yellow press that accuse Francis of doing nothing during Argentina's military regime.
"Articles in Egyptian press divide three ways," Fr Greiche said. The first group prints only news from the main news agencies like Reuters, AP and AFP (for example, Al-Arham). The second relegates the story to the back pages with short articles without any in-depth analyses (mostly Arabic language newspapers). The third group, which is closer to the liberal camp, includes papers established following the Arab spring (for example, Al-Masry al-Ayoum) and is in favour of the new pontiff."
According to the priest however, Egyptian media for the most part has treated the pope's election with superficiality, repeating the errors of the main international news agencies.
"No one has grasped the spiritual and religious significance of the pope's election, and the importance that the conclave has for Catholics. Most articles are vague, do not know the difference between a bishop and a cardinal and view the bishop of Rome as an ordinary religious leader that speaks to his people and not to the whole world." (S.C.)