By Essam Fadl
CAIRO: Around 6,000 Copts attended Pope Shenouda III’s weekly sermon on Wednesday evening with tight security measures around the Cathedral’s headquarters in Abbaseya.
It was the first after New Year’s attack on Al-Qeddesine (The Church of the Two Saints) and after the Pope’s return from a routine medical trip in the US.
Shenouda entered the sermon hall with 15 security guards surrounding him, which spurred the attendants to chant, “With our souls and blood we sacrifice our life for you,” wishing him a speedy recovery and praying for God to protect him.
The Pope said during his sermon that the Church has never gone through a time of weakness and never requested protection from kings.
“We do not seek protection from anybody, because God protects us,” Shenouda said.
As a precautionary measure following the Alexandria bomb that left 23 dead and over 90 injured, police used metal detectors and checked attendants’ national ID cards and wrists for tattoos of the Coptic Christian cross. No parking was allowed inside the Cathedral other than the vehicles belonging to bishops, which were also inspected before entering the facility.
One of the attendants asked the Pope about traveling to Jerusalem for work. Shenouda, who had earlier opposed pilgrimage in the Occupied Territories, told the man it was permissible.
“There is no problem to travel to Jerusalem for work, because [doing so demonstrates] normalization with the Palestinians, and nothing is wrong with this,” Shenouda said. “We are opposed to traveling to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, because [that] involves normalization with Israelis who still occupy Arab lands and Muslim and Christian holy places.”
In his sermon entitled “John the Baptist,” Shenouda added: “I wish [a] happy Epiphany to everybody, but I have to mention that the real name of the feast is ‘The Baptism of Jesus Christ.’ It was later named this way because baptism is Epiphany.”
“We did not mention the birthday of Jesus, but we mention the person who baptized him: John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus and paved the way for Him.”