Pope Shenouda mulls canceling Christmas celebrations

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By Essam Fadl

CAIRO: Pope Shenouda ended his spiritual mediation at St. Bishoy Monastery in Wadi Notroun to go back to the Cathedral’s headquarters in Abbasiya on Sunday, meanwhile mulling whether or not to cancel Coptic Christmas celebrations.

Some church leaders requested that the Jan. 7 Coptic Christmas celebrations be cancelled after the bombing of a church in Alexandria that left 21 dead and 97 injured.

The Pope met on Sunday the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and Minister of Religious Endowments Hamdy Zaqzouq.

The Pope has not yet made a final decision regarding Christmas celebrations, while some church leaders think it is necessary to hold the celebration on time.

“The Pope will meet with church officials to address the incident and to reach a final decision regarding the cancellation of the celebrations,” the sources added.

Bishop Basanti of Helwan and Maasara told Daily News Egypt that there is a disagreement among church leaders over the possible cancellation.

“The Pope is investigating the matter, and he will take the final decision.”

The Holy Synod of the Coptic Christian Orthodox Church issued a statement blaming the bombing on mounting sectarian mobilization against the church by “tendentious” media.

The statement called for dealing with the root of sectarianism, stressing that the bombing took place due to weak security measures around churches.

“We were shocked by a vicious attack … during our prayers to celebrate our happiness with the New Year,” the statement read. “We combine our prayers with those of Alexandria martyrs whose prayers are screaming to the Almighty.”

“In case the Pope decides to hold [Christmas] celebrations on time, I think it will be limited to the usual service in Saint Mark Cathedral in Abbasiya,” lawyer of Egyptian Orthodox Church Ramsis El-Naggar told Daily News Egypt.

Sources also said that security forces asked the Pope not to cancel the celebrations with guarantees to guard churches around the country.

Coordinator of Secular Copts Front Kamal Zakher told Daily News Egypt that Egyptian security is unwilling to secure all churches, calling for canceling the celebrations to avoid more bloodshed.

“The state should be held responsible for the attacks. Alexandria has been witnessing mounting sectarian tensions, with protests against the Pope every week,” said Zakher.

“If the state is unwilling to protect its Coptic citizens, then it has to tell them to avoid bloodshed.”



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