Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria during his speech marking the anniversary of the “Holy Steps” celebration on the evening Tuesday, June 2, 2021. (Photos courtesy of the Coptic Church)
Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark proposed on Tuesday designating 1 June a national holiday to mark the day the Holy Family entered Egypt.
The entry of Christ and the Holy Family into the land of Egypt "is one of the fixed feasts of the Coptic Orthodox Church" which take place in the middle of the year and "is a cause for joy, grace, and blessing for all of us, and we must remember it" every year, Tawadros said.
"God singled us out and gave us this blessing for this event to take place on the land of our country [Egypt] to live and rejoice by it, and today we are at one of its important stations," he added.
The statements were part of the pope’s speech marking the anniversary of the “Holy Steps” celebration, which was organised by Martyria Foundation for Culture and Development at the Virgin Mary Church in Maadi district, on the occasion of the Holy Family's entry into Egypt.
In a dream, God ordered Joseph the carpenter to escort Jesus and Virgin Mary from Palestine to Egypt, where they would find solace after king Herod had decided to kill infant Jesus to protect his royal status.
Among the Holy Family's stops in Egypt, which includes 25 spots, was Cairo's Maadi.
It is believed that after leaving "Old Egypt" (Fustat) – where they dwelled for a short time in a cave in Abi Serja’s Church in Fustat – the Holy Family moved to Maadi district and settled where the Virgin Mary Monastery and Church was later built by the Nile.
The pope expressed gratitude to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and concerned parties for developing the path of the Holy Family in Egypt, along with Martyria Foundation For Culture and Development, describing work on developing the path as "a great achievement".
The restoration of all the archaeological sites located on the Holy Family’s path has been completed.
The improvement work of the path, estimated at EGP 60 million, is meant to create and upgrade touristic facilities and services along the path to incorporate the journey throughout Egypt into the global religious tourism map.
"Our joy is great because God chose Egypt to be a safe haven for the Holy Family," Egypt's Minister of State for Emigration and Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram said during the Holy Steps celebration, adding that the feast of entering the Holy Family is full of messages of joy and condolences.
Egypt's Emigration and Expatriate Affairs Minister Nabila Makram and Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria during the evening marking the anniversary of the “Holy Steps” celebration on Tuesday
The joy of the blessing made by the Holy Family's visit across Egypt and their sailing in a small boat in the Nile, Makram said, carry many reassuring messages for Egyptians that "God protects Egypt and its people, and that we should not worry about the Eternal Nile."
Tawadros also proposed that the Holy Family's journey be incorporated in school curricula, adding that it is a religious and national event that “should be designated a national holiday.”
Since 2003, 7 January has been marked a national holiday in Egypt. On this day, Coptic Orthodox Christians, who make up around 90 percent of Christians in Egypt, and other Eastern Orthodox countries celebrate Christmas.
Egypt's Christians make up about 10-14 percent of the country's 100 million-plus population.