CAIRO: The Supreme Administrative Court agreed to a writ by Pope Shenouda on its May 29 ruling that obliged him to allow divorced Orthodox Copts to remarry.
While there are no appeals in supreme courts, accepting a writ means the implementation of the verdict would be halted until the case is reconsidered by the court.
The Administrative Court had issued a ruling in favor of a Copt, Hani Wasfi, allowing him to remarry after obtaining divorce through court. Divorce is forbidden by the Coptic church except in proven cases of adultery, or if a spouse converts to another religion or branch of Christianity. Civil marriage alone is not recognised in Egypt.
Pope Shenouda III, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, had appealed the court’s ruling in front of the Supreme Administrative Court, which again didn’t rule in his favor.
During a press conference earlier this week, Pope Shenouda said the church will not implement the ruling, which he considered a violation of the teachings of the Bible and an intervention in religious rights.
Accepting the writ came through a political decision after a number of senior officials interfered in the issue, Naguib Gobrael, lawyer representing the church and head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization, told Daily News Egypt.
Gobrael said he called off a demonstration scheduled for Thursday in front of Abdeen Palace after he learnt through high profile officials about the court’s decision.
"Accepting a writ presents a legal solution for the issue and avoids the escalation of the outrage of the Copts."
Pope Shenouda had 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 said it was unlikely that the Church would 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."
The court’s decision to accept the writ came a few hours after hundreds of Copts demonstrated on Wednesday evening inside the St. Mark Cathedral in Abassiyya.
The demonstrators announced their support for Pope Shenouda’s refusal to implement the ruling, which they considered a violation of the teachings of the Bible.
Security forces surrounded the Cathedral yesterday morning in preparation for the demonstration, but they didn’t prevent the participants from reaching the Cathedral.
A number of priests and bishops participated in the demonstration.
The protestors repeated angry slogans supporting Pope Shenouda’s stance in refusing what they described as "the state’s interference" in the church’s affairs.
Slogans included "no rulings, no laws, we will not violate the Bible" and "all Christian sects call for laws that follow the Bible".