CAIRO: Pope Shenouda III, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, reiterated the Church’s refusal to implement a verdict by the Supreme Administrative Court that allows divorced Orthodox Copts to remarry.
At a press conference in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abassiyya, Pope Shenouda said that he is worried about "restrictions on Copts in practicing their faith."
The Holy Synod said in a statement that the Church respects the law, but does not accept verdicts that violate the teachings of the Bible and does not accept interference in the religious freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
Pope Shenouda said he considered second marriages "a completely religious issue," not an administrative matter.
He added that his stance on remarrying will not change "because it’s not a personal stance, it’s an execution of the teachings of the Bible."
He described the controversy over the case as "an unjustified amplification, as the number of divorced Copts in Egypt in addition to Diaspora Copts ranges between 200 and 650 cases annually."
"Some media spoke of around 2 million divorced Copts who want to remarry — I wonder if that’s the number of divorced Copts, then what’s the number of all Copts?"
Pope Shenouda warned that the timing of this verdict was worrying and dangerous. "The state complains about the stance of some Diaspora Copts, but we calmed them [the Diaspora Copts] down and now the state is taking a step that will jeopardize these efforts."
He mentioned that when the administrative court (lower court) issued a verdict two years ago, the Church said it wouldn’t execute it and refused to violate the teachings of the bible. "We were surprised when a final verdict was issued despite the Church’s refusal. We won’t stand still this time."
However, he said it is unlikely that the Church will turn to President Hosni Mubarak to resolve this case. "We don’t want to put the president in an awkward position, but we know that he won’t ignore the ordeal of millions of angry Copts over the interference in their faith."
He stressed that the solution lies in issuing a unified personal status law agreed upon by all Christian sects. "The proposed bill for a unified personal status law for all Christians has been under lock and key since 1980 and we don’t know why," he added.