Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Christian hopes for the New Year

Michael Adel reviews this week’s celebrations of Christmas in Egypt

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and Coptic communities at home and abroad celebrated Christmas this week. Coptic Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of St Mark, presided over the Christmas Eve mass on Tuesday evening at St Mark’s Cathedral in the Abbasiyya district of Cairo. With him, amid tight security measures, were various bishops, priests and the heads of some other Christian communities.

The pope expressed his gratitude to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in response to a congratulatory telegram and telephone call. A presidential envoy also attended the mass. He also thanked the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyib, for his congratulatory greetings and the envoy he sent on the occasion. The mass was attended by numerous ministers and other senior government officials, political party leaders, media figures and foreign ambassadors.

Yesterday, the Cathedral hosted official Christmas Day ceremonies. Tawadros II received visits from Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyib, Minister of Religious Endowments Mohammed Mukhtar and other ministers and senior officials who were keen to convey their best wishes to the pope and the Coptic community.

The Egyptian patriarch stressed the need for all Egyptians to stand together and work for the advancement of their country in all its economic, social, cultural and religious dimensions. He observed that Egypt is advancing despite attempts to propel the country into the maelstrom of sectarian conflict. His Christmas sermon also underscored the values of peace, love and acceptance of others.

Following the mass, he told the assembled bishops that he had asked the government to act as quickly as possible to secure the return of Egyptian Copts recently kidnapped in Libya.

The Evangelical Church in the Qasr Al-Dubbara district of Cairo held its Christmas ceremonies on Sunday evening, also with the participation of a number of officials and public figures. The pastor of the Church, Reverend Sameh Morice, took the occasion to congratulate Muslims on the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed.

In his sermon, he said, “Christ was born so that all people could come to understand the meaning of humility and to be close to all. He was brought to earth in order to teach all the spirit of love.”

He then spoke of the Apostle Paul before his conversion. “He was like someone from Daesh [the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria]. He killed those who differed from him. But when the clouds of hatred and persecution were lifted from his eyes, he came to know God and became an apostle.

“Those who love God have a place in heaven. This applies to everyone, not just Christians,” he said.

The ceremony was attended by Minister of Trade and Industry Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz, Minister of Health Adel Al-Adawi, Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University Sheikh Ahmed Karima, and the imam of the Omar Makram Mosque, Sheikh Mazhar Shahin.

Also present were former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, former presidential candidate Khaled Ali and a number of media figures, including Yusri Fouda and Ahmed Al-Muslmani. Here, too, the Ministry of the Interior had taken intensive security precautions in case of possible acts of violence or terrorism.

The Weekly met with a number of Church officials in the papal court. Bishop Moussa, the Coptic bishop for youth, said, “We need brotherly love as the essential groundwork for the future and interaction and openness on proper bases. Then peace will come to Egyptian society.”

Bishop Ioannis, the Church official responsible for public services, told the Weekly, “The Lord has the power to do anything in the New Year. Our Church stands firm and will remain strong in spite of foreign conspiracies.”

Paulus Halim, media spokesman for the Church, said, “Our hope is that tensions and violence in the world come to an end and that all Egyptian people enjoy bread, freedom and social justice without discrimination, as championed by the people in the Revolutions of 25 January and 30 June.”

The police played a central role in securing the safety of Egyptian churches during the Christmas celebrations. Police officials coordinated closely with Church officials over the placement of surveillance cameras and link-ups with control rooms at security directorates.

The Civil Defence Authority also dispatched teams to churches and important public facilities in order to search for possible explosive devices.

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