Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Coptic Christmas under Islamist rule

The Coptic Church is preparing for Christmas celebrations amid security concerns this year, writes Michael Adel

Al-Ahram Weekly

This year’s Coptic Christmas, which falls on 7 January, takes place under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and with a new pope of the Coptic Church.
While the Church, together with civil forces, withdrew from the drafting of Egypt’s new constitution, approved by referendum in December, the Church has followed the usual protocol of inviting the president, the prime minister, and the chairman of the Shura Council in preparation for the Christmas celebrations.
It has also set up a special office to invite all those who want to celebrate Christmas with the Coptic Church. In the celebrations, the pope of the Coptic Church, Tawadros II, will not receive season’s greetings before mass on Christmas Eve, and will instead enter St Mark’s Cathedral in Abbasiya in Cairo through the west door in a procession of bishops and priests.
After reading from the Bible, the pope will deliver his first Christmas sermon since becoming pope in November last year. He will then greet well-wishers. On Christmas Day, the pope will receive well-wishers at his offices in Cairo and will meet visitors to St Mark’s Cathedral, wishing them a merry Christmas in line with Church tradition.
The pope has sent several bishops abroad to lead the Christmas mass with expatriate Egyptian communities and deliver greetings from the mother church. In Egypt, security preparations are underway in the run up to the Christmas celebrations, including reinforced security barricades, guards outside churches, video surveillance outside and inside churches, and X-ray machines.
Meanwhile, Bishop Yoanas, the Coptic bishop of public and social services, has been able to fill the pews of St Mark’s Cathedral to celebrate the Coptic month of Kiahk, which he has been famous for doing for many years, with the approval of Pope Tawadros. Thousands of Copts attend this ceremony from across the country.
Preparations are also underway at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria to mark the second anniversary of the bombing of All Saints Church in 2011, which killed 24 and injured dozens of others.
Nader Morcos, a member of the Congregational Council of Alexandria, said that there would be a special mass at the All Saints Church in Sidi Bishr in Alexandria attended by Father Roweis Morcos, undersecretary of the Alexandria diocese and head of the priesthood college, and Maqar Fawzi, priest at the All Saints Church, as well as the families of the victims.
The second anniversary of the bombing would be formally commemorated the next day, 31 December, at St Mina Monastery, as was the case last year, he said.
“The All Saints bombing was a tragic event,” Kameel Sidik, secretary of the Congregational Council of Alexandria, said. “It is a mark of shame on the national conscience that until today there has been no official investigation of the bombing, and what we have seen instead is a smoke screen.”
Writing on various social-networking sites, some Copts have expressed concerns that some Islamist currents have called the Christmas celebrations blasphemous. The Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya group described Christmas as “sorcery” and “blasphemy”, and Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi said on his official website that it would be sinful for Muslims to celebrate Christmas with the Copts.
At the same time, the authorities in Palestine made a surprise announcement on Christmas Eve, as celebrated in the western Churches, to the effect that the largest sculpture of the baby Jesus in the world had been unveiled to worshippers in Bethlehem. It was specially sculpted to be displayed during the celebrations in the birthplace of Jesus in cooperation with the NGOs the John Paul II Foundation and Children Without Borders.
The sculpture, made out of wood and weighing 300kg, is two metres long and will be on display inside the John Paul II Foundation. Soheil Deabes, coordinator of the foundation, said the sculpture met many of the requirements for entry to the Guinness Book of Records.
As preparations for celebrating Christmas continued, the Coptic Church submitted a detailed memo to the presidency in Egypt about amendments it would like to see made to the new constitution.
These included deleting Article 219, which states that the “principles of Islamic Sharia include comprehensive evidence, fundamental and jurisprudential bases, and credible sources in Sunni doctrines”.
They also included deleting phrases from Article 4 pertaining to the role to be played by Al-Azhar, including the phrase “in charge of promoting the Islamic call, religious studies and the Arabic language in Egypt and the world” and replacing it with “in charge of promoting and developing Islamic studies and sciences and defending the moderation and tolerance of Islam around the world”.
The phrase “senior Al-Azhar scholars will be consulted on issues of Islamic Sharia” should be deleted and replaced with “senior Al-Azhar scholars will be consulted on Islamic affairs,” the Church said.
Paragraph 2 of Article 81, which states that “these rights and freedoms will be exercised in a manner that does not contradict the rules and principles in the chapter on state and society in this constitution,” should be deleted, as should Article 227, which states “the constitution or the law will put a term limit on all tenures that are not renewable or are renewable only once. The term begins on the date of appointment and ends in all cases once its occupant reaches the legal age of retirement for the post.”
Article 230, which states “the existing Shura Council will assume full legislative powers until the new People’s Assembly begins sessions, and it is given full legislative powers until a new Shura Council is elected within six months of the People’s Assembly starting sessions,” should be deleted, as should Article 233, which states “the local administration will continue operating according to existing systems until the gradual application of the system included in this constitution over the ten years following its ratification.”
The articles pertaining to the press and eliminating imprisonment as a penalty for publishing offenses should be amended, the Church said.

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