Supporters believe the visit is consolidating the concept of the Arabism of al-Quds (Jerusalem) while opponents think it lends legitimacy to the “Zionist entity” that allows entry into the holy city only after it puts its seal on passports and entry visas. The second team stressed support for the position by the Azhar and the Egyptian church not to visit Jerusalem before it is liberated from the “usurping Zionists”.
“I support the Muftī’s visit to Jerusalem because it will draw the world’s attention to the rights of Muslims and Arabs to the city and the blessed al-Aqsá Mosque and will also set right a some Jewish and Zionist misconceptions planted in the global public opinion that Jerusalem was a capital of Israel,” said Dr. Muhammad al-Shahāt al-Jindī, a member of the Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy.
Dr. ‘Abd al-Mu’tī Bayūmī, a member of the Academy, however, termed the visit as “sad and deplorable,” adding, “it is a disgrace for any Muslim or Christian to visit Jerusalem under the Israeli flag because it would simply be considered a recognition that the city is under Zionist occupation”. [Ahmad ‘Abd al-Fattāh and Nādir Abū al-Futūh, al-Ahrām, April 19, p. 13] Read original text in Arabic
[Reviewer’s Note: A report of the same content was mentioned in al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, April 19, p. 1]
Meanwhile, the independent syndicate of imāms issued a statement expressing support for the initiative announced by the Azhar under the auspices of Grand Shaykh Dr. Ahmad al-Tayīb to prepare guiding proposals on criteria for the re-formation of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution for Egypt.
The statement highlighted the Azhar as a reference representing moderation and tolerance of Islam and rejected all attacks against the Azhar at present so as to encumber its march, demanding that the Azhar paper be the top reference when a new constitution is written. [Nādir Abū al-Futūh, al-Ahrām, April 19, p. 7] Read original text in Arabic
Presidential candidate Muhammad Salīm al-‘Awwā said that his project focuses on the preservation of Arab Muslim identity, adding Christians are partners in the nation who enjoy all rights and committed to all duties.
“The only posts denied to Copts are the grand shaykh of the Azhar and the minister of awqāf just like Muslims cannot be popes for Copts,” said ‘Awwā in statements during a rally in the Upper Egyptian governorate of al-Minya.
He added that any delay in presidential elections on the pretext that a constitution has not been written yet would be a serious matter that will only be conducive to millions of people on the streets to demand handover of power. [Bāhī al-Rūbī, al-Jumhūrīyah, April 19, p. 10] Read text in Arabic
Another presidential hopeful, Hamdīn Sabbāhī, said if he becomes a president of Egypt, he is going to be a president for Muslims and Copts, who, he said, will be equal in all rights and duties.
“My slogan will be ‘With Justice and Amity, We’ll Build Egypt’ as I took justice from Islam and amity from Christianity. When I say that I will appoint a Copt as a vice president then it means that the rights of Copts will be guaranteed in all sectors of the state,” said Sabbāhī in an interview with al-Akhbār newspaper. [Mahmūd Kāmil, Ahmad Zakarīyā and Bahā’ al-Mahdī, al-Akhbār, April 19, p. 10-11] Read original text in Arabic
Meanwhile, Bishop Mūsá of Youth said on Wednesday (April 18) that the church stands on an equal distance toward all presidential candidates and does not back a certain candidate, adding Christians have all rights to elect whoever they believe would achieve the interests of the nation.
“I am not going to run in the new pope elections out of appreciation for the deceased Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III and also because my health conditions would not be up to the great responsibilities of the post,” said Bishop Mūsá during a press conference following a Holy Synod meeting. [Ashraf Sādiq, al-Ahrām, April 19, p. 7] Read text in Arabic
He noted the Holy Synod confirmed that women will be allowed for the first time to vote in the papal chair elections, adding the addition of expatriate Copts to the election lists just like Copts at home is being considered at present. [Author Not Mentioned, al-Akhbār, April 19, p. 3] Read text in Arabic
[Reviewer’s Note: A report of the same content was mentioned in al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, April 19, p. 4]
Archpriest Andarāwus ‘Azīz Sulaymān, who obtained a court ruling in 2002 to return to his priestly position, said he received a phone call from a woman working at the papal office, adding the phone conversation revealed information about the destiny of some priests and bishops who were banished during the time of Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III.
Father Andarāwus, an author and defrocked Coptic Orthodox priest who was known for his liberal opinions and opposition to Pope Shenouda, said he obtained promises that he will return to the church along with other banished clergymen at the earliest convenience.
He noted that a female administrative worker he declined to name was coordinating with a former senior military official and the current director of the papal seat to arrange for his return and that she asked him to keep silent in the coming period and avoid criticizing Bishop Bīshūy, the secretary of the Holy Synod, until the pope elections are over.
The church has reportedly prepared a list of Coptic Orthodox clerics who have been approved to return to their parishes and churches after acting patriarch Bishop Pachomius ratifies the decisions.
The list includes Bishop Ammonius of Luxor, Bishop Baphnotius of Samallūt, Bishop Mattias of al-Mahallah al-Kubrá, former monk Barsūm al-Muharraqī, former priest of al-Giza parish Mīnā Ishaq, priest Hābīl Tawfīq Sa‘īd a self-proclaimed pope who tried to begin a new denomination of Coptic Christianity, Archpriest Andarāwus ‘Azīz Sulaymān and Father Bisādah Zakī, former priest in Arḍ al-Liwā', Giza, who had been defrocked on charges of corruption. [Jamāl George, al-Fajr, April 19, p. 23] Read original text in Arabic