Egypt presidential hopefuls mourn the late Coptic Pope

Ahram Online , Monday 19 Mar 2012

Egyptian presidential candidates offer their condolences to Egypt's Coptic community following Pope Shenouda III's recent death and remember his 'honourable' stance against normalisation with Israel

pope big
Presidential hopeful Amr Moussa with Pope Shenouda III (Photo: Al-Ahram Archives)

The death of Pope Shenouda III comes at a time when Egypt prepares for its first post-Mubarak presidential elections, and all presidential hopefuls are busy campaigning for the position of the country's top official.

All major candidates and hopefuls made sure to pitch in on the death of the man who led 10 million Coptic Egyptians for the last 40 years.

Liberal candidate Amr Moussa, who announced his candidacy in February 2011, expressed his deep sorrow over the death of a "leading pioneer" and a remarkable citizen.

Hossam Khayrallah, who announced his candidacy at the end of February 2012, asserted that the Pope's character is one that needs to be studied by all Egyptians. The upcoming generations can learn a lot from his wise judgements, he said.

Islamist candidate Mohamed Selim el-Awa added how he hopes the Coptic Church's honourable standing will remain as it has always been under the Pope's guidance.

A number of candidates referred to the Pope's position on Israel, reflecting on how he was a man of principle when it came to the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

Islamist candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh stated, "We will continue to remember the honourable position taken by the Pope in 1979 against President Anwar El-Sadat's decision to normalise with Israel and the signing of the Camp David accords." Aboul-Fotouh visited Bishop Moussa in Alexandria to personally offer his condolences.  

Leftist candidate Khaled Ali also personally offered his condolences to the church while on his campaign tour in Assiut, the birth place of Pope Shenouda III.

Meeting with Pastor Luca in the Mar Girgis church, Ali also stated how the Pope was to be looked up to for standing against El-Sadat's decision and for forbidding other bishops from visiting the Holy Land. As a result, the Pope was exiled to the desert-based St Bishoy Monastery for forty months in 1981 by Sadat. He was restored to his position in 1985 following an amnesty by Hosni Mubarak.

Female presidential candidate, Bothayna Kamel also commended the Pope's refusal to obtain an Israeli visa to visit Jerusalem.

Several candidates have announced they are to attend the mass on Tuesday. Salafist hopeful, Hazem Salah Abou Ismail announced he will be present at the funeral mass on Tuesday to offer condolences to "all the Copts of Egypt."

Nasserist candidate, Hamdeen Sabbahi halted his presidential campaign on Sunday out of respect for the mourning period that many Egyptians are observing. Sabbahi likewise asserted how history will remember the Pope's "great nationalist positions"  as one of the guardians of national unity. 

Judge Hisham El-Bastawisi, who recently re-launched his candidacy bid in March, noted how the Pope had a very important role to play in limiting the sectarian strife that has engulfed the country for the past two decades, as well as his ability to tone down differences during times of strife.

In response to the Pope's death, a mourning period has been announced for Tuesday. A burial ceremony is to be held on the same day at the St Bishoy Monastery in Wadi Al-Natrun region, where he was exiled.

The Coptic Church has refrained from endorsing a specific presidential candidate, in an attempt to keep the Church out of political entanglements.

Short link: