AFRICA/EGYPT – Coptic Church: the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem puts global stability at risk

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Cairo – The possible transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would have “negative consequences” not only on the ever fragile stability of the Middle East, but also on that of the world as a whole. This is the alarm launched by the Coptic Orthodox Church yesterday, Tuesday 5 November, with a statement that anticipated the concerns expressed today by Pope Francis, at the end of Wednesday’s general audience. According to the Coptic Orthodox Church, it is necessary to “protect the juridical status of Jerusalem”, in the framework of what is indicated by the UN resolutions on the Holy City. The decision to recognize Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of Israel according to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate would go against all international conventions in this regard, and would compromise attempts to overcome disputes through dialogue and the search for shared solutions that are respectful of the spiritual profile of the Holy City and its history.
Only in recent years the growing presence of Coptic Orthodox Egyptian pilgrims in the Holy City has marked the factual overcoming of the prohibition to visit Jerusalem which in 1979 had been imposed on its own faithful by the then Patriarch Shenuda III. In the years when the Arab-Israeli conflict was radicalized, Coptic Patriarch Shenuda III had forbidden the faithful of his Church to make pilgrimages to the Jewish state and had not changed position even after the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel desired by President Sadat. This prohibition has never been formally revoked, but already in 2014 the journey carried out by some ninety Coptic Christians on the occasion of Holy Week to the Holy Land had given way to several observers to underline the inactivity of the anti-pilgrimage disciplinary provision, within the framework of the relationships existing between the two neighboring countries.
What further contributed pilgrimages of the Copts to Holy Land was the journey carried out by Patriarch Tawadros II to Jerusalem in November 2015, on the occasion of the funeral of Archbishop Abraham, head of the local Coptic Orthodox community.