Abba Seraphim chaired the half-yearly Synod of the British Orthodox Church, which met at the Church Secretariat in Charlton on 14 January. Reports were presented on behalf of all the parishes and missions as well as financial reports and church activities in relation to inter-church relations, religious education and publications. A principal topic discussed was the planned expansion of the work in London and the increase of the catechumenate.
Many people were killed and hundreds were injured in Cairo on Sunday, 9 October when police and armed forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at a peaceful march, beginning in the suburb of Shoubra, to protest at the recent destruction of St. George’s Coptic church in El Marinab, Aswan. This had taken place after Friday prayers on Friday, when the dome, walls and columns of the church were demolished and set on fire. In addition to drawing attention to the attack on the church in Aswan, the demonstrators were also requesting an effective conclusion to investigations into several sectarian attacks, and the passing of a new law governing the building of churches,
Members of the security forces surrounded and attacked the Cairo marchers as soon as they arrived at the state television station in Cairo’s Maspero suburb. The marchers claimed that they were pelted by people within the TV station itself. Most of the casualties suffered gunshot wounds. Others victims were severely beaten. However, several died or were seriously injured when members of the security forces deliberately drove at the 150,000-strong crowd in armoured vehicles.
In a worrying development, while the attack was underway, the security forces are reported to have forcibly closed at least two independent media sources, while state television broadcast statements inciting against “Coptic protesters”. These included claims that the security forces were protecting the TV station from “angry” Copts, that the allegedly armed marchers had killed one officer and injured 20 others, that “foreign agendas” were at work, and a call for people to take to the streets in order to “protect” the army. In a possible response to the latter, men in civilian clothing were later spotted amongst security personnel as they attacked protesters, and Cairo’s Coptic Hospital, which received most of the dead and injured, came under a two-hour attack by a group of men who approached the premises chanting “Islamiya, Islamiya”.
The next day, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, chaired by Pope Shenouda III and attended by 70 metropolitans and bishops, the following statement was issued:
The Holy Synod was troubled by the incidents that happened yesterday, Sunday; the martyrdom of more than 24 Christians and the wounding of 200 during their peaceful march.
While stressing our Christian faith rejecting violence in all its forms, we cannot neglect that strangers might infiltrate among our sons and commit mistakes that are attributed to the latter.
Still Copts see that their problems are consistently repeated without punishment or legal action against their aggressors or implementation of radical solutions to these problems. The Holy Synod invites the Coptic people to pray and fast for three days starting tomorrow Tuesday so that the Lord dwells with His peace in our beloved country Egypt.
In solidarity with the Mother Church in Egypt, His Eminence Abba Seraphim, has commended this spiritual discipline to members of the British Orthodox Church and asked that services of commemoration for those who lost their lives in Cairo should be held in all churches and missions. “Our hearts go out to all the friends and families of the departed as well as for the many injured. As Christians we deplore all violence and under the wise guidance of H.H. Pope Shenouda we have been taught that our protests must always be peaceful. The Church respects the authorities but also asks that justice and the rule of law should be upheld. Without that it becomes increasingly difficult to rebuild a society in which all people of faith can co-exist harmoniously to ensure the stability and unity for which all decent people long.”
Photo source: http://theorthodoxchurch.info/main/
Traditionally the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church meets in Cairo on the Eve of the Feast of Pentecost in plenary session. However, this year it has been cancelled at short notice and Pope Shenouda will remain in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has gone for routine medical treatment.
More Disturbing Events from Cairo
As Abba Seraphim had booked his flights some time ago he planned to go ahead with his visit. However, after a few weeks of relative calm following the Revolution, there were two recent incidents in central Cairo which give cause for concern. In one a female reporter from Coptic TV went down to Tahrir Square, where a group of young men surrounded her and attempted to rape her. When she desperately called for help a police officer arrived and shot into the air to disperse the crowd. The criminals took both his gun and his phone away and beat him almost to death. On the same day, the Ezbekia Police Station (near the main railway station) was burnt down following rumours that a police officer had killed a microbus driver. As a result of these incidents, which indicate a potential resurgence in violence, Abba Seraphim was advised against travelling to Cairo at the present and, acting on this advice, reluctantly cancelled his planned trip to Egypt. These incidents will probably not be reported by the European media.
Abba Seraphim asks everyone to continue in prayer for Egypt and especially for the Christians there.
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III met with a small committee from the members of the Holy Synod on Tuesday morning 15th February 2011, and they released the following statement:
The Coptic Church salutes the honest Egyptian youth, the Youth of 25th January, who led Egypt in a strong peaceful revolution, in which precious blood was shed, the blood of the martyrs of the nation who were honoured by Egypt’s leaders and army, and also honoured by all the people and ourselves. We offer our condolences to their families and relatives.
The Coptic Church pays tribute to the valiant Egyptian army, and also to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for what it has issued of official statements regarding the security of Egypt both internally and externally. We support its decision in dissolving the Peoples’ Assembly and the Shura (Consultative) Council, and its call for security to reign.
We all believe that Egypt must be a democratic and civil nation, choosing members of its parliament through free and fair elections, having representatives from all facets of the people.
We support all of Egypt in its fight against poverty, corruption and unemployment, resisting anarchy and destruction, and for the foundation of security and safety, the principles of social justice and national unity and the curtailing of corrupt and unlawful people.
The Coptic Church prays for the great Egypt, which has a glorious history and ancient civilisation. We hope that the Lord to keep Egypt safe and spread in it calmness, stability, security and prosperity.
Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark
& Head of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church
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