A controversial visit by Egypt’s Coptic pope to Jerusalem last Thursday is still garnering criticism among Egypt’s elite, the latter whom believe the leader is violating a longstanding popular opposition to normal ties with Israel.
The visit “represented a rift in the opposition to normalization with Israel,” prominent political commentator and journalist Abdallah al-Sennawi told satellite TV channel al-Ghad al-Arabi on Saturday.
Pope Tawadros II was attending the funeral of Bishop Abraham, Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Near East, who died on Wednesday, escorted by delegation of eight senior church clerics. He defended his move as a "duty".
Tawadros' visit was the first by a head of the Egyptian Church since 1967 when his predecessor, late Pope Shenouda III, imposed a ban on visiting the holy city while it is under Israeli occupation.
“The pope’s visit to Jerusalem has exposed him to big problems, especially now that some travel agents are announcing programs that involve trips to Jerusalem, encouraged by the pope’s recent visit,” Sennawi added, predicting that extremist groups would use Tawadros II’s move against the church to “induce a state of sectarian division that could see Egyptian Copts labelled as normalizers with Israel”.
“I am not questioning the pope’s sense of nationalism nor his humane motivations..but he should not repeat it,” Sennawi stated. “He has to be strict with the tourist agents who announced trips to Jerusalem following his visit.”
Edited translation from al-Masry Al-Youm