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Egypt's Pope Tawadros: Sectarian conflict caused by 'human stupidity'

In an interview with Al-Ahram the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church discusses issues including relations with Ethiopia and his controversial visit to Jerusalem

Ahram Online , Thursday 7 Jan 2016
Pope Tawadros II
Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark Cathedral, leads Egypt's Coptic Christmas eve mass in Cairo, Egypt, January 6, 2016 (Reuters)
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In an interview published in Al-Ahram newspaper on Thursday, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, blamed current sectarian conflicts in the Middle East on "human stupidity."

Sectarian struggle is caused by "people killing each other for money and [for the sake of their] interests," the pope told the state daily in the interview, which marked the Orthodox celebration of Christmas.

The interview covered a wide range of topics, including relations with Ethiopia, where just under the half the population are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

"We need to care for Ethiopia more and more; there will be no war between Egypt and Ethiopia for water," said the pope, adding that negotiations and understanding will solve lots of problem between the two countries. 

Ethiopia is currently building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile; Egypt has expressed concerns that the completed dam could negatively impact the amount of Nile water that reaches the country.

In September, the pope visited Ethiopia, while Patriach Mathais I of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church visited Egypt earlier in the year.

The pope also discussed his controversial visit to Jerusalem in November in the interview with the state daily, describing it as “urgent and exceptional.”

The pope visited the city in order to lead the funeral prayers for the church's Metropolitan Archbishop Abraham of Jerusalem and the Near East, who passed away that month.

"There was also a personal consideration in this visit as Archbishop Abraham was the first monk to receive me at the monastery when I became a monk, and we became colleagues," he said, adding that the visit was "beyond political considerations." 

The late Pope Shenouda III issued a papal ban on pilgrimages to Israel in 1979, a policy that remains in place today as a clear stance against the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem.

Pope Tawadros' visit was the first by a Coptic pope to the Holy Land since 1967.

Regarding personal status law and the debate about divorce for Christians in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II told Al-Ahram that the church was following the bible in that matter. The church opposes divorce except for adultery.

In 2014, Egypt's Ministry of Transitional Justice drafted a new personal status law for non-Muslims which contained new provisions on divorce. The bill has yet to be passed. 

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