Abba Seraphim expressed his condolences at the news of the death of His Eminence Metropolitan Domadios of Giza, who died on 16 September at at El-Salam Hospital in Mohandessin, Giza where he was under treatment. Pope Shenouda along with 37 metropolitans and bishops and 3,000 people led the funeral office. The funeral was attended by the Vatican Ambassador to Egypt, the Minister of Interior (General Mansour al-Issawi) and the Governor of Giza.
Born as Michael Khalil on 9 July 1925 at Maghagha City (Minya Governorate), he completed his high college and spent his early and primary school Bmgagh then moved to complete his secondary education school at El-Masai El-Mashkura College in Shebin El-Kom. On 1946, he received his his bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Agriculture at Cairo University. He then studied a 2-years Education diploma (1948) to work as teacher of Agriculture in Tanta for two years.
At the age of 15, he joined the church village ministry convoys in Giza. During his university studies, he started teaching Sunday School at St Mark’s Church in Giza. Michael Khalil was a disciple of Father Mi9na the Hermit (the future Pope KyrillosVI).
On 29 April 1951, he was consecrated as a monk monk at the Syrian Monastery with the name “Fr Matthias”. As an Agricultural Engineer, he utilized his knowledge to improve the desert soil near the monastery and cultivate a farm. This was one of the earliest attempts to cultivate desert soil. On March 1953, he was ordained priest, then Hegoumen in April 1954 (which is remarkable as he was not yet even to his 30s).
When Fr Mina the Hermit was consecrated as Pope Kyrillos, Fr Matthias joined his secretariat. The former sent him in 1962 to support the growth of St Mina’s Monastery at Mariut. At the same time, Pope Kyrillos nominated him for the episcopate, which he refused. However, the Holy Synod selected him to become the Bishop of Giza and Pope Kyrillos consecrated him as Bishop Domadios of Giza on 31 March 1963. He was later promoted to the rank of Metropolitan by Pope Shenouda III on 2 June 1985.
In his later years, Abba Domadios suffered from a stroke which left him partially paralysed and confined to a wheel chair for many years, but in 2009 Pope Shenouda consecrated Bishop Theodosius as a General Bishop to assist him.
Translated with few additions from Dostour Newspaper
In a recent interview conducted by Father Daoud Lamei, His Holiness Pope Shenouda clarified points in the Statement which he issued on behalf of the Holy Synod and commented on aspects of the Egyptian Revolution.
What was meant by a civil nation ?
A civil nation is defined as a non-religious and non-military nation.
You spoke of the valiant Egyptian army ?
Praising the army in the statement recalls a long history. While still a university student, I volunteered in the army and graduated from the school of Infantry in 1947.
Are you optimistic about the future?
I am not tending to talk about optimism but rather about hope in God. We are asked not to loose hope. This is an integral part of our relation to God. Our life, as well as the life of countries, abides not in the hands of people, but in the hands of God. There is no doubt, the authorities want good for the country whether on the internal level (unity, security and prosperity) or on the external level (events in surrounding Arab Countries, possible reactions of Israel…etc.). In these days, our priority should not be to put forward demands and exert pressure on the regime but to support the leadership to pass through this difficult phase and arrive to a safe haven.
Some people suggested that the church was a main beneficiary from the old regime, not knowing what we have been suffering from.
In a TV interview with Amr Adeeb, some 6 months ago, I mentioned that the problems of the Copts can be summarized in one word ‘marginalization’. Copts are marginalized from high official positions, syndicates, legislative councils, university staff…etc. Another main element has been the frequent violent attacks targeting Copts. We remember the El Kosheh assassinations (21 dead and no sentence has been made against anyone by the court), Abu Korkas (9 people assassinated inside the church and no one has received death penalty – according to the law), Dayrout (14 killed including children), the Alexandria church this year (30 killed, 90 injured), Omraneya Church (where we were unjustly blamed for the events) but we thank the Lord for having people released before the Feast of Nativity early in January.
On the other hand, I cannot deny that we had good relations with President Mubarak as a person. That’s why I see it a personal obligation of loyalty not to mention bad points but rather to remember the good ones. The problems we suffered were mainly due to those surrounding him. Now after the revolution, they have been apprehended and are being prosecuted.
At the start of the revolution didn’t you allow Coptic youth to join the demonstrations?
I had an interview at El-Horra TV Channel where I mentioned that our youth are generally peaceful and are not attracted to demonstrations. Also at the start of the revolution, things were not clear. It later proved to be a free and non-violent movement. Many Copts joined it in fact and many were martyred and wounded, some newspapers published names of 12 of those Coptic martyrs and the church did not object to their participation. On the other hand, we ask the Lord to give their families patience and we pay our deepest condolences to them. If I know their addresses, I would send personal condolences to each of them.
What are your views on educational reform in Egypt ?
I always ask myself a question: should education be only for earning, or should it help people to find a job? May be it is both. What is the point of educating people to become unemployed. I remember a funny story of a woman seeing her child studying and asking him to leave education and play soccer where he would find a better future.
I would personally encourage having quality vocational training starting at preparatory schools (7-9 grades) to have a higher professional vocational training at the secondary level. The university may also have an advanced degree on vocational fields. In fact, foreign investors in Egypt seek highly trained vocational workers. Not finding them they have to import them from other countries at higher cost. I recall some twenty years ago, the electricity generator at the monastery had a problem; one of our sons was a senior engineer. I asked him if he could fix it. He said, I apologize I am only engineer on paper but I have no real experience. We need people who have both theoretical and practical knowledge. Sometimes we import sophisticated medical equipment, and find no expertise to use it properly or fix it. This kind of training is very important and missing much in Egypt. This does not mean eliminating general education but having both.
On political parties, do you encourage Copts to work in politics?
The Muslim Brotherhood recently created the Wassat, Hakk and Adala & Gamaa parties. Are the youth of 25 January intending to create parties ? I have no idea. Would some tolerant people install non-religious parties? Of course those are in addition to the old classical parties. For us we cannot and it would not be to our benefit to install a purely Christian party. It would be described as radical and would have very few members. I encourage Copts to join their Moslem brothers in a party they would judge as tolerant and achieving their hopes. One should properly study the aims, agenda and members opf each party. In this respect we have to admit that we need to raise people’s political awareness.
Constitution amendments and Article 2:
I met with a member of the current committee and he said they would only amend the 5 articles previously decided and would not touch on article 2. The head of the committee publicly supported article 2, the Grand Sheikh of Azhar said it is an indispensable article, both the Salafists and the Muslim Brothers went in demonstrations to support that matter and they said that addressing this article may cause sectarian strife. I believe that at the current stage, it is difficult to oppose this article, especially for Christians. As a compromise I suggest the following, if it is essential to keep it, we may add a sentence “as for non-muslims, the commandments of their religion shall apply in personal statute and clergy matters”.
The church and being socially active in building the country:
The church may participate in social building and help the country not by vandalism and demonstrations. A couple of days ago I was visited by the Minister of Interior and I suggested that we rebuild and refurbish the neigbourhood police station at our expense. Likewise, HG Bishop Morcos of Shoubra El Khema is rebuilding and refurbishing two police stations there.
Copts were always criticized for being politically passive in their participation. On the other hand the head of the church is often criticized for interfering in politics.
There is a difference between being active politically and working in politics. For example in all elections I went to do my duty as a citizen by voting. As for Copts being politically passive, I must remark that most parties were not welcoming Copts among them and they were never allowed to go up the political scale except for a few well-known names. I encourage parties to give the chance to Copts and have trust. The behaviour of parties had a negative impact on both Muslims and Christians and this reflected in the extremely low participation in elections.
What is the fine line between being politically active and interfering in politics?
For example concerning Palestine, I gave my opinion and said that I would not go to Palestine except with the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar and this was highly praised by all authorities (except some few Copts) as a national act despite the fact that it was pure politics. The question is: should I be active only in matters that are supported by the government and show restraint in matters they reject? The church is giving its opinion in politics without working in politics. Yet for Copts, they are free to work in politics as they wish and they have to select the successful and right politics.
Should there be a revolution in the church to change things?
Unlike world politics that change from time to time, whether calmly or violently, the church uses a divine system that is described in the scriptures and detailed in the church canons. Copying the government system for the church is not acceptable by logic, religion and church canons.
As for the clerical council investigations for clergy, it was asked lately why they are not made public. In fact, those investigations are usually concerning financial, ethical or theological matters. We make the judgment public but do not give details of the investigations. The details are written in special memos and are signed and approved by the priest who is being judged. If anyone needs me to review his case, I may well request his file and review it.
President Mubarak had many problems because of those surrounding him? Can this happen with your Holiness?
Those surrounding President Mubarak were employees, but those around me are my sons and disciples. For example, Bishop Ermia, I knew him over many years, I consecrated him monk, then priest, then bishop and appointed him to the secretariat. Bishop Joannes is the same way. Another point is that those around Mubarak, may have found excuses for their mistakes: for example, they would support his son Gamal for the presidency so they would fabricate elections and possibly oppress people and so on…etc. Such an element is completely missing in the church. I would not recommend anyone to succeed me.
Spiritual lessons from the past 20 days of the revolution
Do not judge before the time. We do not know anything concerning the future. The Lord said: Do not care for tomorrow, tomorrow cares for itself. The future is in the hands of God not ours. There are many political actors: the Higher Council of Armed Forces, the government, the youth of 25-Jan, the individual demonstrations, financial problems, some Coptic fathers who want to rule the church…etc. We leave it all in the hands of God, knowing for sure that the church is in the hands of God not people.
We trust that everything will go well, not because of our own prayers: It is true that God gives us what we ask for and beyond what we ask for, yet He also gives abundantly without us asking. Maybe Joseph had his ultimate hope to leave prison and return back home with his father and brothers. He never thought of ruling Egypt or having pharaoh’s seal under his authority. God gives without us asking and beyond it. He just wants us to be pure of heart and as He said ‘Return to me and I shall return to you’. Every morning, while praying the Agpeya I meditate the words ‘grant us O Lord to please you’. It is indeed a grant from the Lord not an effort of us.
[Translated by Shenouda Mamdouh]
In the light of David Cameron’s visit to Egypt, Abba Seraphim reflects:
I am very pleased to see the Prime Minister has made it a matter of urgent priority to support the current Egyptian government. I hope he will not fail to address the need for the new constitution to give full equality to all Egyptian citizens, with particular consideration to the way in which Christians have been increasingly marginalised over the last three decades.
Since 14 February, when the Egyptian Constitution was suspended, a Constitutional Review Committee has been charged with the responsibility of formulating a new one which will then be submitted to a referendum. It must be a matter of some concern, however, that already fifteen human rights organisations based in Egypt have made protestations about the choice of Judge Tarek El-Bishry as the chairman of the committee. The judge is well known as a leading proponent of political Islam and it is feared that he is unlikely to be sympathetic to the formation of a new constitution with a secular character.
In 1980 the late President Sadat amended the constitution by adding what is now the second article, which stipulates “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation.” This was introduced to appease the Islamicists but it proved fatal both for national unity and for Sadat himself, who was soon after assassinated by the very people he had hoped to appease. Western democratic governments have been quick to hail the recent Revolution but unless it redresses this key issue of inequality the Christians of Egypt will remain at risk. By repealing the second article Islam will suffer no loss to its dignity but will more likely gain the respect of others. A willingness to sacrifice unfair pre-eminence in order to share the rights it enjoys with the disenfranchised has always been the distinguishing mark of civilised and respected governments. During the recent Revolution there were many instances of true national unity with Copts and Muslims working together peacefully and selflesssly for the common good and it was this spirit which earned universal admiration.
“Al-Ahram” newspaper, hitherto the voice of the previous regime, is currently sponsoring an on-line poll to test public opinion on the question of Article 2. Both sides are encouraging their supporters to make their voices heard but this cannot be the authentic voice of democracy as it is not capable of expressing a universal voice, nor is it subject to any adequate supervision to ensure its impartiality. The only poll which is capable of expressing the common mind is a free referendum but even then, the fear in the mind of many is whether the question will even be asked?
The Grand Iman of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, recently warned against any attempt to change the second article of the Constitution, saying it was “not open to change or update. It is among the state constants and any attempt to meddle with it can lead to sectarian strife.” He gave added force to his declaration by asserting that it was “not a statement” but “it is Al-Azhar’s stance.” It is to be regretted that the Sheikh feels it necessary to retain this constitutional carbuncle, something which respected rulers such as Mohammed Ali and Gamel Abdul Nassar never sought to impose, because it undermines the very concept of national unity and is the root cause of sectarian strife.
Egypt is currently a country without leaders but there are many who will aspire to lead a country that is fundamentally tolerant and capable of offering enlightened leadership to the whole region. It is to be hoped that among them will be those who will exhort others to demonstrate their patriotism; not by a narrow desire for hegemony over minorities but by an enlightened vision of national unity that will respect diversity and seek to harness the good will and loyalty of those who have been unjustly sidelined, downtrodden and persecuted when they should have been embraced as brother Egyptians. If this is the outcome of the Revolution, Egypt will earn the respective of all free nations and its people will prosper, but if the Sheikh of Al-Azhar’s blinkered parochialism wins the day, the flame of freedom in Egypt and the whole region will be quenched for at least another generation.
An interview with Abba Seraphim
Q. How do you view the current demonstrations in Egypt ?
A. History shows us that all repressive regimes can only maintain a grip on power for a limited period of time. Like a volcano waiting to explode, the underlying tensions seeks a crack in the surface and then everything suddenly comes bursting out. No country can be totally isolated from its neighbours and the unrest we saw in Tunisia has spread to Egypt and its effect is already having an impact on other countries. I was impressed, however, by the calmness of the protesters in the early stages but the escalating violence and injury to people and property is now very alarming.
Q. Do you think that President Mubarak should go ?
A. I have already expressed my view that I believe the present government has lost its moral authority and retains power by electoral fraud and military repression. However, Tony Blair was right to remind us that President Mubarak is not Saddam Hussein, although he has presided over a corrupt and stagnant administration for three decades and a new generation of educated Egyptians have grown up who want to control their own destiny. It is not uncommon for political leaders to believe themselves indispensible and to try to hang on to power for too long but in truly democratic countries their term of office is limited by statute or they can be voted out. Egypt’s constitution provided for this but President Mubarak changed it and has now outstayed his welcome. Recent tragic instances have showed us that the Egyptian government was not ensuring the security of all its citizens and this has been a serious failure to fulfil a primary responsibility of government.
Q. Do you believe that America is still influencing events ?
A. Egypt has suffered from foreign interference for too much of its modern history and I am very conscious of Britain’s role in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which sadly did not put Egypt’s interests first. However, Egypt is a proud nation and they did manage to reassert their independence before American influence and patronage tied them into a rather too close alliance. America and its Western allies have been complicit in winking at the totalitarian nature of the Egyptian government and the human rights abuses in Egypt and by so doing they have also lost some moral stature. Efforts to push for greater democratisation have been too half-hearted and now seem to be an afterthought.
Q. Is there a danger that if Mubarak goes now things will descend into chaos ?
A. There are signs of that chaos already appearing with vicious street battles between warring factions, the absence of proper policing with widespread reports of looting and rape as well as the serious damage being done to businesses and the economy in general. All parties profess a devotion to national unity and to achieve this there must be give and take. I would hope that President Mubarak will complete his term and be allowed to go into honourable retirement. He has served his country for many years and is not without some achievements and by going peacefully he may regain some respect from his opponents. We may justly criticise him for his failures but I dislike the crude abuse coming from some quarters. If he goes early, then the Vice-President will assume power in an orderly way and he should invite representatives of all the leading opposition groups to play some part in the reconstruction which must immediately follow and to pave the way for constitutional change and free and fair elections before the end of the year.
Q. Is there a danger that the Muslim Brotherhood or other religious fundamentalists will be the principal beneficiaries of these changes ?
A. Although the Muslim Brotherhood has been a banned party, it nevertheless managed to field “independent” candidates and to gain 88 seats (20% of the total) in the 2005 elections. In the latest, 2010 rigged elections, they gained only one seat (0.2% of the total). Obviously, support is still there and it is something which needs to be faced. Currently the Muslim Brotherhood professes a commitment to greater democratisation and if a new Constitution can be brought in before the elections we have to trust that the majority of Egyptians will back that and it will serve as a safeguard against any form of extremism.
Q. Do you have any views about what form that Constitution should take ?
A. The 1980 amendment introduced by President Sadat, which states “Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation” is discriminatory and contradicts the aspirations of non-Muslim citizens. The rights of all Egyptians to practise their religion must be respected but no faith should be preferred over another if there is to be true equality. National unity cannot be achieved by preferring one section of society over another and this is the soundest way to ensure that religious extremists do not gain control.
Q. How should Coptic Orthodox Christians react ?
A. In all societies there will be diversity of opinions, so Copts do not form a monolithic block vote. We have seen instances of Copts standing guard over mosques during these demonstrations and I know of very encouraging reports of Christians and Muslims working harmoniously to protect their local communities. The Coptic Church has always encouraged national unity and that vision is symbolised in the old motif of the conjoined cross and crescent expressing that sense of Egyptian unity which was so strong in the early twentieth century. Copts have been participating in peaceful demonstrations and Pope Shenouda has always condemned any resort to violence. I feel sure that Copts will be at the forefront of support for the wounded and the vulnerable during these difficult days. The shameful and degrading violence of the past two days is something which cannot be justified under any circumstances.
Q. What can those of us do who are not living in Egypt ?
A. As Christians we know the power of prayer and it is always our first resort. We not only pray for our friends and relations caught up in events, but we pray for the victims of the violence and that the politicians and leading figures in Egyptian society will be given wisdom and guidance in their judgements and actions. At the present, most Coptic Churches in the diaspora are observing a time of prayer and fasting. It is encouraging also how many Christians of other traditions are telling us that they too are earnestly praying for a peaceful and just outcome. Egypt is a great nation and they are a proud people. We pray that out of these troubled times a long and lasting peace may result so that freedom, justice and tolerance may flourish.
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, gathered on 8 June 2010 at the Papal residence and chaired by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III along with the attendance of eighty-one Metropolitans and Bishops and the endorsement of nine fathers who did not attend, declares that the Coptic Church respects the law, yet it cannot approve rulings that are against the Bible and against the religious freedom that is promised to us by the Constitution. The church also declares that for us Matrimony is a holy sacrament and a purely religious matter, not a mere administrative procedure.
The Islamic Sharia declares “govern them according to their beliefs”, likewise, the word “according to their tenet” appears in all legislation pertaining to the Personal Statute. Law 462/1955, rulings of the Court of Cassation, the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Criminal Court, all mentioned that the Patriarch is not a public official.
As for imposing on the Church, religious matters that are against our laws, i.e. against the Bible and the church canons, this is something that our consciences cannot approve and we definitely cannot execute.
For the re-marriage of divorced people, it is a strictly religious matter that is governed by the Bible.
Metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr El-Sheikh and Barary
Secretary of the Holy Synod
Pope Shenouda III
Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark
- 26 May 2013
- Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: BournemouthWorship commences 09.30
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Morning Prayer: Babingley10.00am Morning Prayer
- Morning Prayer: ChathamOrthodox Morning Prayer: 10:30 am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: CharltonRaising of Incense 2.00 p.m.
Divine Liturgy 2.30 p.m.