CAIRO: Egypt’s highest judiciary body on Wednesday overturned a ruling ordering the Coptic church to allow its faithful to remarry, the official MENA news agency said, in a move welcomed by the church.
The Supreme Constitutional Court overturned a May decision by the High Administrative Court that obliged the head of the church, Pope Shenuda III, to issue a second marriage permit to divorced Copts requesting one.
That ruling sparked demonstrations in Cairo, with angry protesters, saying it went against the Bible, charging state interference in religious affairs.
Copts forbid divorce except in proven cases of adultery, or if a spouse converts to another religion or branch of Christianity.
Civil marriage alone is not recognized in Egypt.
Wednesday’s ruling "has relieved Coptic church leaders who trust and respect the Egyptian judiciary and believe in its justness and its ability to correct any contradictions in rulings," Hani Aziz Amin, a church representative, told MENA.
After the High Administrative Court’s ruling, Shenuda had urged the court to review its decision.
"The decision must be reviewed," he said. "The church respects the law but it does not accept judgments that go against the Gospels and against religious freedom, which is guaranteed by the constitution."
"Marriage for us is sacred and a religious act, not a simple administrative act," he continued, adding that the church could "absolutely not apply" the court’s decision.
Copts make up about 10 percent of the country’s 80-million largely Muslim population, and are the Middle East’s biggest Christian community.