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Pope Tawadros II: “Terrorism has no homeland or religion. The world thirsts for love.”

Interview with His Holiness Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, a month after the terror attack of December 11 against the cathedral of Abssiya, in Cairo, that took the lives of 25 people. “I cannot conceal the fact that in Egypt we were all overcome by terror and fear.” “Today the world thirsts for love. Love is the only solution that can preserve a pure heart and ensure peaceful, serene coexistence"

Christians in Egypt are overcome by terror and fear, but they also firmly believe that “terrorism has no homeland or religion”, said His Holiness Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Over a month has passed since a suicide-bomber recruited by Daesh blew himself up during the celebration of Sunday Mass inside the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Mark in Abassiya, Cairo, past December 11. At least 25 people were killed (including several children), leaving many wounded and wreaking havoc in its wake. It was the most vicious attack against Egypt’s Christian community – 10% on a population of 90 million – since the bombing at a church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve in 2011 that killed 21 people.

What were the thoughts and the emotions of Your Holiness and of your people after the tragic attack against the church of Al Bottroseya (Abbasseya)?

At the time of the terror attack against the church of Bottrosseya I was in Greece for a pastoral visit that was scheduled to last the whole week. I immediately interrupted the visit to return to my country, I was worried for the situation in my home country, I felt deep sorrow for our martyred sons and for the wounded. I cannot conceal the fact that in Egypt we were all overcome by terror and fear. The attack wasn’t only against a Coptic Church. It was an attack against the whole of our Country.

How could it be possible and why should anyone want to hurt the community of believers during a religious service?
The fact that the attack was perpetrated in Egypt is awkward, because all Egyptian people nurture feelings of deep respect for places of worship, whether churches or mosques, and we should not forget that the attack took place during a major Islamic holiday, thus it came as a shock for all Egyptians – Christians and Muslims alike. Hence it should be underlined that

Terrorism has no homeland or religion.

You received a phone-call from Pope Francis: who is Francis for Tawadros and how do you support or see his pontificate and his service?
Immediately after the attack and before I left Greece, the President of my Country, Mr. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, phoned me to convey his condolences. Upon my return to Egypt also Pope Francis called me to express his heartfelt feelings of closeness and condolences to me, as head of the Coptic Church, and to all Christians in Egypt, and to support us with his words of faith and love. Pope Francis is His Holiness, he is a man animated by the Holy Spirit. I met His Holiness on May 10 2013 in Vatican City. On that day I felt that he is my blessed brother who supports us with his prayers, with his spiritual experience and with the written teachings wherefrom our lives can deeply benefit.

I strongly hope that His Holiness will come to visit our Egypt.

I wish to add that in our Church we closely follow all the activities and the blessed visits of the Pope and we give praise to God because He is a good shepherd, a faithful, honest servant of his Church.

With Pope Francis you discussed the ecumenism of the blood: how is this ecumenism lived, and how important is it today in the furthering of the dialogue between the Churches?
Throughout the 2000 years of the history of her faith, the Coptic Church has been described as the Church of the Martyrs. In fact every day we read the Synaxarium Book in our churches, which recounts the lives and the conduct of many of our martyrs in the course of history. When we celebrate the new martyrs we know that our blood thrives in the Christian faith worldwide. That’s why we deeply appreciated this expression conveyed by the Pope, namely the ecumenism of the blood.

The blood of the martyrs kindles the life of the Church. The ecumenism of the blood and the lives of Christian martyrs are considered a solid foundation in the theological dialogue between our two Churches aimed at Christian unity.

What is the message that His Holiness Tawadros wishes to convey to Christian faithful and to the international community as a whole?

According to the Gospel commandment, life’s events and occurrences are to be considered educational messages for us all. In this regard, I wish to quote a passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans, 8:28). God is the Pantocrator of humankind, hence we adhere to all the promises of the Bible, in the awareness that the martyrs and the wounded are in the hands of God.

In this respect we call upon the international community as a whole, upon the governments of Eastern and Western countries, to combat with firmness and determination all forms of violence, terrorism, murder, destruction and to fight against all forms of discrimination to lay the foundations of development and peace.

Today’s world thirsts for love. Love is the only solution that can preserve a pure heart and ensure peaceful and serene coexistence.

The Coptic community has recently celebrated Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany: what are your wishes for the Church, for the community and for the Middle East?
Upon the Birth of Jesus Christ, the song of the Angels was tantamount to a fundamental recipe for a righteous human life articulated in three stages: the first is to give Praise to God and that God be uppermost in human thought, before Him we bow down in adoration and prayer. When man succeeds in doing this, he can reach the second stage that is to bring peace to the world. This is the demanding task that mankind needs to fulfil in order to obtain what humanity is in deep need of today. Once this objective is achieved, each one will possess happiness and joy, coupled by a better quality of life, which is the goal of every Country. For the Church, my wish is that she may serve everyone, especially the poor, the needy, excluded children, and all those who are forgotten and neglected by many.

My hope for the community is that acts of violence and cruelty may end soon, that the Community may enjoy peace and security, and fulfil the many hopes of development.


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