Egyptian Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, headed to Jerusalem on Thursday to attend the funeral of Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Abraham of Jerusalem and the Near East scheduled to take place on Saturday.
A statement by the church said: “The pope headed a delegation of Egyptian clerics to Al-Quds to pay tribute to the oldest among the church archbishops and most reputable after the Pope in the Coptic Holy Synod.”
The visit is the first of its kind since 1967 and marks a historic importance, given that the church that stands against normalising relations with Israel and in favour of an independent Palestinian state. President Mahmoud Abbas had called for such a tour.
Abbas was hosted by Pope Tawadros II earlier this month, where the pope emphasised priority of the Palestinian conflict in the region.
The Egyptian church denied media concerns that the visit is motivated by anything other than the offering of condolences. Such trips have been banned by the church since 1979 as a form of contestation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords.
Late Pope Shenouda III was quoted in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper years ago as saying he would “not set foot in Al-Quds unless with a Palestinian visa”, calling on Copts to boycott visits.
Last January, Egyptian ambassador to Palestine Wael Nasr El-Din participated in a religious ceremony organised by the Coptic Church there with the presence of Archbishop Abraham where he communicated Egypt’s support for Palestine until ‘it regains sovereignty over the holy lands with East Jerusalem as its capital’.
Archbishop Abraham was born in the governorate of Sohag in Upper Egypt in 1943. He joined the Faculty of Agriculture and completed a PhD degree in 1976. After completing religious studies in 1971, he chose monasticism and was inaugurated as a monk in 1984, all the way to the Jerusalem chair in 1992.