Egypt’s Pope Tawadros receives Ethiopian church delegation, says he hopes GERD talks go well

Amr Kandil , Sunday 4 Sep 2022

Head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II said he hopes talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) go well, as he received a delegation from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church on Sunday.

 Pope Tawadros II
Egypt s Pope Tawadros II hands a hand-held cross to Abune Yosef of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as a gift to the church delegation visiting Egypt. Coptic Orthodox Church

The Egyptian pope received Abune Yosef of Bale of the Tewahedo Church and a number of Ethiopian heads of monasteries, deacons, monks, and nuns currently touring Egypt’s historic and religious destinations, a statement by the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church read.

“We pray for the Nile water and for the rain that falls in Ethiopia as it brings good to many countries,” Pope Tawadros said. “In Egypt, we consider the Nile our father and the land around it our mother.”

The pope stressed that Egypt and Ethiopia are bound with firm relations, as they belong to the African continent and are linked by the Nile River.

Tensions are high between Cairo and Addis Ababa due to the dispute caused by the GERD, Africa’s largest dam, which Ethiopia has built on the Blue Nile.

Last month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced completing the third phase of filling the GERD’s reservoir despite the two downstream countries’ repeated objections to the unilateral filling of the $4.2 billion dam.

The upstream country has implemented three phases of filling the 74-billion-cubic-metre reservoir over the past years and operated some of the dam’s turbines without the consent of the two downstream countries.

Egypt and Sudan have been pursuing diplomatic and political options for over a decade now to get Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, a step that Ethiopia has rejected.

On more than one occasion, Pope Tawadros has reiterated that the Nile River's water is a gift from God, which should not be disputed, and has called on the parties in the GERD dispute to seek peace and a consensual solution that ensures development for their peoples.

In May last year, the pope said he prays that all diplomatic and political efforts to find a solution to the GERD dispute succeed in order to avert any other options.

The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Tewahedo Church generally share warm relations and have exchanged high-level visits over the past years.

In September 2015, Ethiopian Patriarch Mathias I of the Tewahedo Church received Pope Tawadros at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, ahead of the Egyptian pope’s participation in the Feast of the Holy Cross.

Pope Tawadros’ visit to Ethiopia came a few months after Patriarch Mathias I paid a visit to Egypt, during which he met with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

During their meeting, El-Sisi told the cleric that Egypt cannot hinder the right to development of the Ethiopian people, but that while the Nile River is a source of development for Ethiopians, it is a source of life, not just development, for Egyptians.

During Sunday’s meeting, Pope Tawadros hailed the firm relations between the two churches and the history that binds them, affirming the need to maintain these relations, the statement said.

The Egyptian pope wished the Ethiopian church delegation an enjoyable visit to Egypt and said that Egypt welcomes everyone with open arms, cares for the followers of the Ethiopian church who reside in Egypt, and allows them to perform their prayers in Egyptian churches.

For his part, Abune Yosef said Ethiopians pray that God grants Pope Tawadros strength and long life and that they loved the Egyptian pope when he visited Ethiopia in 2015.

The Tewahedo Church looks forward to another visit by the pope to Ethiopia, the statement said.

Bishop Pimen of Upper Egypt’s Naqada and Qus villages, also coordinator of relations between the two churches, said during the meeting that the Coptic Orthodox Church is keen to transfer its monasterial experience, especially in with regards to development.

At the end of the meeting, Pope Tawadros gifted an icon of the Holy Family and a hand-held cross made in the Coptic style to the members of the Ethiopian church delegation.

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