CAIRO: The Strong Egypt Party denounced Friday Coptic Pope Tawadros II’s visit to Jerusalem citing a “breach of decades-long” non-normalization imposed between Egypt and Israel.
“We, (Egyptians) with all our political and religious orientations, have been always proud of the Coptic Church’s firm decisions against normalization with the Zionist entity following the 1977 Camp David peace treaty. The visit will likely pave the way for a significant increase in the number of Copts going for pilgrimage in Jerusalem amid Israeli security forces’ constant attack on Palestinians,” the party stated Thursday.
The condemnation comes a day after the pope said he travelled to Jerusalem to attend the funeral of Father Ibrahim, the Coptic Bishop of Jerusalem, who passed away on Wednesday.
“The visit is to attend the funeral and nothing more,” Coptic Church spokesman Boulos Halim told Al Hayat T.V. channel Thursday.
Halim said the visit does not represent a shift in the church’s position towards Israel, adding that “I consider this to be a human duty, a condolence duty.”
“The position of the church remains unchanged, which is not going to Jerusalem without all our Egyptian (Muslim) brothers,” he added.
Copts (Egyptian Christians) were forbidden from visiting Israel by their late Pope Shenouda III who passed away in 2012 after leading the Coptic Orthodox Church for over 40 years. The ban was imposed in protest at Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.
Despite the ban, hundreds of Copts have visited Israel over the past few years during Easter.