Members of Egypt’s Christian minority are free to express their opinions on the streets, just as they were to vote for whomever candidate they supported in the past presidential elections, said head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II.
In a Monday interview on MBC Egypt satellite channel, the patriarch said the decision for Copts to protest, both on 30 June and in general, was an issue of personal freedom of expression. “Anyone is allowed to express their opinions peacefully,” said the pope. He went on to say the Church was above politics and focused on its social and religious role.
The pontiff also dismissed allegations by some Islamist movements accusing the Church of mobilising Christians, saying the Church was being used as a scapegoat to falsely explain ongoing domestic problems. When asked about comments made by Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya leading member Assem Abdel Maged, who has launched a petition campaign supporting President Mohamed Morsi, the pope responded saying, “There are some voices not worth listening to.”
Pope Tawadros expressed disappointment in the past year, saying that the election of President Mohamed Morsi came with joy and hope in the democratic outcome.
“Generally the rule of Morsi has been frustrating. We see decisions that are cancelled, and the resignations of presidential assistants,” said the pope, adding that Egypt deserved better governance.
The pope also said that the past year had been a very difficult year for the Church, highlighted by the attack on St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, something he called “unprecedented” in the long history of the Coptic Church.
Tawadros was also critical concerning the presidential decree earlier this month to build a church in the town of Nobaria, acting on a request filed to the government 17 years ago.
He said that the plot on which the church was to be built was 1728 square metres. Despite this, the government permit called for the structure to be 300 square metres, which the pope said was not nearly large enough to serve the estimated 1,000 Christian families in the area.
Pope Tawadros said that he had not been approached to help resolve the Nile water crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia, calling it a problem relating to the two governments. He added that he hoped that the relationship between the countries would strengthen and move beyond this “dangerous stage”.