Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

‘God’s gift to all’

On a visit to Cairo, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church urged closer relations between the Egyptian and Ethiopian Churches, writes Michel Adel

‘God’s gift to all’
‘God’s gift to all’
Al-Ahram Weekly

It was his first visit to Cairo since he became head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in February 2013, and Ethiopian Patriarch Mathias I made sure that his week-long stay in Egypt included matters of both spiritual and diplomatic importance.

He talked to his peers in the Egyptian Coptic Church about closer ties, conferred with the Egyptian prime minister and stressed that Egypt and Ethiopia must always remember how much they have in common.

The Ethiopian Church has been trying to ease tensions between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the Renaissance Dam, currently under construction on the Nile in Ethiopia. The church was an archdiocese of the Egyptian Church before it became independent in 1959.

Patriarch Mathias was received by Coptic Pope Tawadros II at the Abbasiyya Cathedral in Cairo. The meeting was attended by Bishop Pimen, in charge of Egyptian-Ethiopian relations in the Egyptian Church, and senior clergymen.

In remarks to the Weekly, Mathias said that Church leaders should help find solutions to world problems, a role which they could assume due to their frequent discussions with governments and politicians all over the world.
Speaking about the bonds between the Egyptian and Ethiopian Churches, Mathias said, “We all have to confirm this relationship so that future generations may not forget its importance.”

He continued, “The River Nile links us, and the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia is allowing us once more to discuss its benefits.” According to the Ethiopian patriarch, “Experts have made it clear that the dam will not harm Egypt or Sudan.”

He proposed meetings between all the Orthodox Churches in an institutional fashion to reinforce ties, and advised Christians to “accept modernity and progress in a way that doesn’t compromise their faith.”

Welcoming the visiting patriarch, Tawadros II noted “the depth of the historical relations between the two Churches.” At a sumptuous reception for Mathias at the Cathedral, the Coptic pope said, “The historical relations between the two Churches go back to the time of Pope Athanasius when he ordained Bishop Salama of Ethiopia.”

Tawadros pointed out that “the two Churches have a geographical bond, being linked by the River Nile.”

Mathias toured the Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo, one of the country’s oldest, before meeting Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and the ministers of trade, industry and health.

Mehleb asked the patriarch to tell the Ethiopian people that Cairo is looking forward to closer bilateral ties. Egypt supports development efforts in Ethiopia as long as these do not interfere with its quota of the Nile water, the prime minister said.

Ethiopia has the right to generate electricity and Egypt has the right to maintain its quota of Nile water, Mehleb said.

The Ethiopian patriarch met President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and thanked him for attending the Christmas celebrations at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, a gesture that had pleased many within the Ethiopian Church, he said.

Mathias added that he had been pleased to see Egypt regaining its security and stability.

“There was a time when our two Churches grew apart because of Communist rule in Ethiopia after 1974, but those times are gone forever,” the Ethiopian patriarch said. He urged the Orthodox Churches to meet regularly and “link our institutions to carry out our duties and promote our message.”

The Ethiopian patriarch also led mass at the Our Lady of Zeitoun Church in Cairo, which was well attended by members of the Ethiopian community in Egypt.

Bishop Piman said the Church is not engaged in politics, but is eager to help smooth out differences over the Renaissance Dam and reassure the two nations that the Nile is “God’s gift to all.”

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