Thomas Reese: Pope to visit pope in Egypt

(NCR Online) At the end of this month, Pope Francis will visit Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, whose community suffered two vicious bombings on Palm Sunday. Francis will also be visiting Egyptian officials, the Catholic community, and Muslim leaders during his short visit. He arrives at 2 p.m. (Egyptian time) on April 28 and leaves 29 hours later.

The Coptic Orthodox Church has existed in Egypt for centuries and comprises about 10 percent of the population. Its head is referred to as “pope,” which is derived from Latin and Greek words for “father,” a title used for bishops and even priests prior to the fourth century. The Copts have experienced hostility and persecution as well as periods of calm and peace with their neighbors.

Recently, with the rise of Islamic radicalism, the Coptic community has experienced its own via crucis. Churches have been attacked and burned by mobs; individuals, families and communities have been targeted; and Copts have been beaten and killed. Things have been especially bad in rural areas, where security personnel can look the other way.

The Coptic community felt especially besieged during the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, who was elected in 2012 after the “Arab Spring.” In 2013, extremists destroyed scores of churches in Upper Egypt and the North Sinai.

As a result, the Copts, along with many Egyptians, were strong supporters of the military coup that put Abdel Fattah el-Sisi into power. Tawadros was very public in his support of Sisi. Copts saw Sisi as the strongman who would keep extremists in line and restore stability. [More]


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