Egypt's Azhar grand imam congratulates Pope Tawadros II, Vatican, all Christians worldwide on Christmas

Ahram Online , Thursday 30 Dec 2021

Egypt's Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb greeted Thursday Pope Francis of the Vatican, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I as well as all Christians around the world on the occasion of Christmas.

Ahmed El-Tayyeb
Egypt s Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb

"My sincere congratulations to my friends: Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros II, Archbishop Justin Welby, Patriarch Bartholomew I as well as to all Christians around the world on the occasion of Christmas," El-Tayyeb wrote in Arabic, English and French on his social media accounts.

"I pray that the Almighty continues to bless us with peace, love and fraternity, while sparing the world from hatred and war," the head of the world's leading Sunni Muslim institution said.

In recent years, as Christian feasts approached, some hard-line Egyptian Islamic clerics have argued that Muslims should not greet Christians, who make up around 15 percent of Egypt’s 102 million population, on religious or social occasions.

However, other scholars at Al-Azhar have individually stated that greeting Christians and non-Muslims on their celebrations is acceptable.

In 2019, the International Electronic Fatwa Centre of Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque said that Muslims may greet and exchange gifts with Christians during their religious celebrations and on social occasions.

Coptic orthodox Egyptians, who make up 90 percent of the country's Christian population, celebrate Christmas on 7 January, according to the Julian Calendar.

Egypt is also home to a number of smaller Christian denominations, which observe Christmas on 25 December, according to the Gregorian Calendar.

On Tuesday, Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church announced that it would hold the Christmas Mass on 6 January at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ in the New Administrative Capital due to COVID-19 concerns.

The mass will be broadcast live on television, according to news reports.

The church added that it will not receive well-wishers also over COID concerns.

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