File Photo: Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and University Ahmed El-Tayyeb with Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II during their meeting. Al-Ahram
In a phone call with Pope Tawadros II, El-Tayyeb affirmed Al-Azhar’s appreciation of the bonds between the Muslim and Christian people in Egypt, saying that “these bonds stem from the right understanding” of religion, Al-Azhar said in a statement on Saturday.
“The relations between Muslims and Christians are a true embodiment of unity and brotherhood,” the statement cited El-Tayyeb as saying, adding that this brotherhood will always remain a solid bond that strengthens the nation in the face of difficulties and challenges.
The grand imam added that he is not congratulating the pope and Christians out of courtesy or formality, but rather out of an understanding of the instructions of Islam.
During the phone call, Pope Tawadros also hailed the relations binding the leaders and people of the church with the scholars of Al-Azhar, saying that these relations are a reflection of cooperation and ties between the two ancient institutions in all fields.
The pope also expressed his happiness over El-Tayyeb’s phone call as a renewal of the permanent bonds of friendship and love uniting Muslims and Christians into the strong national fabric of Egypt, the statement added.
Coptic Orthodox Christians – who comprise a substantial majority of Christians in Egypt – will also celebrate Good Friday and Holy Saturday on 22-23 April. On Holy Saturday, Copts usually go to church before gathering at night to celebrate and break their 55-day fast.
The Christian religious week was disrupted over the past two years due to the pandemic, as attendance of masses was limited to Church officials in order to stem the spread of the virus in the country.
This year, the Christian religious week coincides with the Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan and falls only a week before Eid Al-Fitr holidays, during which Muslims end their month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting.
On Wednesday, Egypt’s National Authority for Social Insurance said pensions for public sector workers for May will be disbursed on 22 April, pushed up from early May, so pensioners can be paid ahead of the holidays of Eid El-Fitr and Easter.
Relations between Muslim and Christian people in Egypt have been always characterised by tolerance and peaceful coexistence with Al-Azhar and the church working to strengthen and perpetuate these warm relations against attempts at destabilisation.
In November, El-Tayyeb and Pope Tawadros II, who traditionally congratulate each other on religious feasts, marked the 10th anniversary of the Egyptian Family House established in 2011 to promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence.