Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1277, (7 - 13 January 2016)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1277, (7 - 13 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Celebrating Coptic Christmas

Michael Adel reports on the culmination of a mixed year for the Church

Al-Ahram Weekly

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has been invited to attend Christmas Mass, to be held today, at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. The president, who attended last year’s ceremony, had neither accepted nor declined the invitation as Al-Ahram Weekly went to press.

Church officials also have invited a number of MPs, the entire cabinet, heads of political parties and leading journalists.

Father Moussa, head of youth affairs at the Coptic Orthodox Church, said he hoped the president would attend the mass.

“We are hoping for a visit by the president but if he doesn’t come,  it will not change the respect we hold for him.”

The Interior Ministry has tightened security around churches ahead of Christmas celebrations says Father Sergius Sergius, secretary of the cathedral.

While delivering a sermon at Anba Shenoudah Church in Alexandria ahead of Christmas, Pope Tawadros II welcomed the appointment of a number of Coptic parliamentarians by a presidential decree. Egyptians, he said, place great hopes on the new parliament. The service was attended by seven MPs.

In the recent elections 36 Copts won parliamentary seats. Their number has now been boosted by three presidential appointees, meaning that Copts occupy 39 of parliament’s 596 seats.

The new parliament is expected to pass a unified personal status law during its first session and the Coptic Church has already forwarded its own recommendations to the Ministry of Social Justice.

The Church traditionally hands out gifts, including food, toys, and money, to poor families during Christmas. Tawadros’ predecessor, Pope Shenoudah III, once wrote that “poor Copts are more important than buildings, marble, ACs and excursions, for feeding the poor is a religious duty.”

Pope Tawadros II ordered Church officials to visit prisoners during the feast to tend to their needs and offer communion. He also met with representatives of The Fraternity of God, a charity that focuses on helping the poor.

The Shepherd and the Mother of Light, a Church-affiliated charity based in the south of Egypt and run by Amir Ramzi, distributed clothing to 16,000 children in Beni Sweif, Minya, Assiut, Sohag and Aswan.

Archbishop Makarius of Minya said such charitable offerings helped bridge any distance between the Church and its congregation.

The Church Scouts’ Society is also helping organise Christmas celebrations. Scouts are being trained to direct entry into churches, help priests with mass, and organise the exit of congregations.

Following a severe erosion of trust between the Church and the government under the Muslim Brotherhood rule, Church officials now say they are satisfied trust has been restored.

The personal status law remains to be a bone of contention among the Coptic community. Many couples complain restrictions on divorce are draconian. The Church is attempting to address the issue by boosting counselling services before and after marriage.

Over the last year Copts became more active in political life and are now better represented in government and parliament.

The Church has stepped up its campaign against atheism, a phenomenon that has been spreading fomented by a spirit of rebellion among the young.

Speaking to young church-goers in Alexandria recently, Pope Tawadros stressed that in addition to biological, psychological and educational needs people have spiritual requirements, including a “belief in God, in forgiveness of sin and eternal life”.

Tawadros reiterated his condemnation of “all forms of extremism and aberrations,” including same-sex marriage.

The Church is boosting its media presence. Under Pope Shenouda it acquired three television stations — CTV, Agapy, St. Mark TV — and is now examining the possibility of launching additional channels, including one for children.

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