CAIRO: Security officials at London’s Heathrow airport stopped Pope Shenouda III on his way back to Cairo last week requesting he undergo a search, much to the consternation of his traveling party as well as the Egyptian ambassador to Britain who was seeing him off, reported the local press.
According to reports in the Egyptian press, Pope Shenouda and his contingent were entering the VIP area of Heathrow on March 30 when they were stopped at the door by British security officers who demanded that the party be searched, including the Pope himself.
Shenouda was in Britain to attend the opening of a new Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Stevenage, North London.
A conversation ensued between the officers and escorts of the Pope who felt it was inappropriate that he be subjected to such procedures. The officers responded to the effect that they had no orders to exclude anyone from the security measures instituted in the VIP area.
While the discussions were taking place, Shenouda waited in a car outside the VIP area, but as the departure time of his flight came closer, he emerged from the car and indicated he was willing to undergo the security checks.As such the Pope passed through the metal detector but he was not subjected to a body search.
Egypt’s ambassador to Britain Jihad Mady who was escorting the Pope to the airport has submitted a memo to the British Foreign Office asking for an explanation for this incident in light of the fact that this has never happened to the Pope on his many visits to Britain over the years.
Pope Shenouda arrived in London March 28 and left the same day for Manchester and then Newcastle before returning to London the following day. According to Mady, the Pope was not subjected to any searches during any of these flights.
The Egyptian newspaper Rose Al-Youssef called for a nationwide boycott of Heathrow in protest of the treatment of Shenouda. Additionally, it reported that the Foreign Ministry had advised Egyptian officials to avoid Heathrow because this is not the first such incident.
Furthermore, the newspaper reported that according to an Egyptian diplomatic source, the Foreign Ministry requested from the Interior Ministry to subject Anglican ministers to the same treatment meted to Pope Shenouda whenever they come to Egypt.
Rose Al-Youssef also reported that Pope Shenouda had been asked about the incident and had reportedly said, “They searched me but did not search for their sins, adding that the Pope was embarrassed about the incident.
Muslim figures were also displeased with what happened to the Pope considering it an insult to all religious figures, the newspaper stated. figures, the newspaper stated.