AFRICA/EGYPT - The Copts return to Jerusalem

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 pilgrimages  


Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - Palm Sunday, celebrated the day before yesterday by the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, saw an exponential increase of Egyptian Coptic pilgrims who have come to celebrate the rites of Holy Week in Jerusalem. According to the Egyptian media, in the current year already at least 5,700 Coptic Orthodox Christians have reached the Holy City, an increase of more than a thousand units compared to the Coptic pilgrims who had carried out a pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Jerusalem in 2015.
The growing presence of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodoxs in the Holy City marks the end of the prohibition to visit Jerusalem which in 1979 had been imposed on the faithful by the then Patriarch Shenouda III. During the years when the Arab-Israeli conflict radicalized, Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III (1923-2012) forbade the faithful of his Church to make pilgrimages in the Jewish state and had not changed his position even after the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel desired by President Sadat. This prohibition was never formally revoked, but already in 2014 the journey made in the Holy Land by ninety Coptic Christians on the occasion of Holy Week had given way to several observers to point out the irrelevance of the anti-pilgrimage provision, within the existing relations between the two neighboring nations.
What further promoted the Copts pilgrimages to the Holy Land was certainly the journey made in late November in Jerusalem by Patriarch Tawadros II, during the funeral of Archbishop Abraham, head of the local Orthodox Coptic community. The Patriarch's trip, although presented by the Coptic Orthodox Church as "an exception", was definitely seen by Egyptian Copts as an eloquent sign that the new Patriarch has no intention to defend punitive prohibitions for the spiritual life of the faithful. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 26/04/2016)