Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1278, (14 - 20 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

‘Tears of joy’

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was given a standing ovation when he arrived at the Abbasiya Cathedral for Christmas Mass, reports Michael Adel

‘Tears of joy’
‘Tears of joy’
Al-Ahram Weekly

When President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi appeared at Christmas mass for the second year running he was met with cheers from a congregation thrilled that the president’s support for Copts remains firm.

Salafists, who for years told Muslims they should not congratulate Christians on their feasts, were once again shown that their fanaticism has no future in Egypt.

Though the Church had invited the president, his appearance was not announced in advance.

Welcoming the president, Pope Tawadros II spoke of national unity. “Egypt is beginning a new era, with new thinking and a new spirit. We are building it together as Egyptians, for the future of our sons,” he said.

The pope reminded the congregation that with the election of a new parliament Al-Sisi has fulfilled his promises regarding the roadmap, and voiced the hope the new parliament will live up to the nation’s expectations.

Synod Secretary Father Raphael commented on the president’s mingling with the crowds. Al-Sisi felt “safe” among the congregation, he said. Raphael praised the president for embracing and talking to a child among the congregation. The gesture, he said, showed Al-Sisi’s compassion for all children.

In another gesture of support to the community, Al-Sisi appointed several Copts to parliament. His strong reaction to the massacre of Copts in Libya by the Islamic State group, and instructions to the army to rebuild churches vandalised after the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in, had already ensured that he is supported by an overwhelming majority of Copts.

In a short speech at the Abbasiya Cathedral, Al-Sisi apologised for delays in the restoration of churches attacked by extremists following the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in and promised all work will be completed by next Christmas.

Father Binyamin, chair of the Church’s Crisis Committee, said that of the 72 churches vandalised by extremists, 16 have been fully restored and work on the remaining 56 is ongoing. Most damaged churches are in southern Egypt.

The first stage of repairs was completed at a cost of LE63 million. The second stage is expected to cost LE120 million. The army is not only carrying out the work but shouldering all costs.

An initiative by the grand imam of Al-Azhar to collect donations for rebuilding churches has raised LE1.2 million.
Episcopal Church Bishop Monir Hanna Anis said words could not describe the excitement at the Cathedral when Al-Sisi arrived.

Coptic parliamentarians were also full of praise for the president. Inji Ibrahim, who won a seat as part of the “For the Love of Egypt” list, said the visit sent a message of peace. MP Magdi Malak Maximus said Al-Sisi’s appearance at the cathedral had “brought joy to the hearts of all Egyptians, not just Copts.”

MP for Shobra district John Talaat stressed how the visit underlined national unity, while Mona Mounir said, “Tears of joy ran down from the eyes of the members of the congregation on seeing the president.”

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