Sawt al-Ummah interviews Bishop Marqus, official spokesperson of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Q. Is there anything new concerning the church’s stand of forbidding Christians from visiting Jerusalem, especially after the increasing demands to go there?
A. The issue of visiting Jerusalem is crucial and Pope Shenouda is dealing with the issue with great care. I remember in 1965 when Pope Shenouda announced the Christian position toward Israel during a lecture delivered at the Press Syndicate where he asserted his support for the Palestinian issue. During this lecture, the pope explained that the church disagrees with Israel for two main reasons. The first reason is religious because the church disagrees with Jews saying that they are God’s chosen people because all people who follow a religion are God’s chosen people. The second reason is political, because the church sympathizes with the Palestinian cause.
Q. Is there a church law to punish those who go to Jerusalem?
A. Yes, there is a punishment for those who visit Israel that lasts for a year. The punishment does not end unless the person apologizes to the pope either personally or by sending a fax.
Q. It was said that the church is planning to hold a meeting to discuss the latest issues and problems … is that true?
A. The pope was following the recent events during his treatment journey in the U.S. However, there is a committee that includes a number of legal councilors, and that discusses major issues like that of Abū Fānā, and that of Mario and Andrew.
Q. How do you view the consequences of the Abū Fānā events?
A. We have issued a comment regarding giving a two month grace period to finish building the fence. We also insist that the people who attacked the monastery be punished.
Q. What about the imprisoned priest?
A. This is the first time in history that a priest has been given a prison sentence for forgery. The church has appealed to the court to not execute its decision.