CAIRO: Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria stated Friday that the controversial monastery of Wadi al-Raian and its monks are not acknowledged by the Coptic Orthodox Church, Youm7 reported.
“Any place (worship place) was not recognized as a monastery by the Church should not be visited or supported,” said Pope Tawadros II during the third Youth Forum of Egyptian Expatriates in Wadid al-Natron Friday.
He denied the monasticism status of a total of 150 monks and apprentice monks, who live in St. Macarius of Alexandria Monastery, located on 13,000 acres in Wadi al-Riaian. The monks protested a project announced by the government in 2013 to establish a highway linking between eastern and western deserts of Egypt claiming it will pass over what they called an “archeological property” of the monastery.
Last week, a deal has been reached between the government and Orthodox Church to start construction of a highway linking oases in Western Deserts, the El -Zaafarana Road of El Ain al Sukhna in the Eastern desert, and the Mediterranean city of Dabaa.
The dispute started when 21 monks protested the highway construction. One of the monks was arrested Thursday to serve a 5-year jail over charges of squatting on the natural reserve of Wadi al-Raian and attacking archeological researchers.
The monastery and its monks have not been acknowledged by the Orthodox Church; however, Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria has given the monks a recognition letter recognizes in 2012 in light of an initiative to solve the problem launched after the January 25 Revolution when the monks “illegally” took control over state-run nature reserve.
Additional reporting by Sara Allam