06/10/2010, 00.00
EGYPT
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The country’s highest court imposes divorce on Coptic Church

by Yasmine Saleh
Court rules that Coptic men can remarry after divorce. In Egypt, marriage and divorce proceedings are regulated by a couple’s religion. Coptic Pope Shenouda resolutely rejects theing.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Pope Shenouda, head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, rejected a court ruling that Coptic men could remarry. A court upheld a ruling last week that two Coptic men had the right to remarry even though they are divorced. In Ma, Egypt's highest court ruled that because "the right to family formation is a constitutional right," no religious body could deny that right.

The court had made a similar ruling in March 2008, leading Pope Shenuoda and 90 other officials in Egypt's Orthodox Church to sign a statement against the verdict.

For him, the high court does not have the authority to dictate religious beliefs or practices. Hence, whilst “the Church respects the law [. . .] but it does not accept rules except from the bible," the pope said.

Under Egypt’s personal law, marriage and divorce proceedings are based on the couple's religion.

Unlike Islam, the Coptic Church does allow divorced people to remarry.

In the case of mixed marriages with Muslims, Islamic law applies.

The ruling challenges the church's efforts to hold sway over its flock and preserve Coptic values in Egypt, where conservative Islamic trends have gained ground.

Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, make up about 10 per cent of the Egyptian population. The other 90 per cent is Muslim.

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