The St Helena Chapel, the Egyptian part of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, has denied entry to Egyptian Christians who sought to celebrate Easter there.
Defying a ban by the late Pope Shenouda III, more than one hundred Egyptian Copts flew to Jerusalem to visit landmarks in the holy land.
“We neither allowed them to pray nor to break their fast. That infuriated them to the extent that some of them wanted to fight us,” Priest Mesaael told the Egyptian state-run news agency MENA.
“The instructions of the late Pope Shenouda are still valid, we have to respect them even more than we did when he was alive.”
An official source at Cairo International Airport said Friday that the air bridge signifies an unprecedented move since the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, pointing out that roughly two daily trips are planned to transfer Coptic pilgrims to Jerusalem.
The step comes in the wake of the death in March of the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, known as the "Arabs' Pope." In an anti-Zionist stance, he issued a papal decree prohibiting Copts from travelling to Israel (even for pilgrimage), in solidarity with Palestinians over the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem.