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Christians in the Muslim World

Egypt : waiting for a new president and a new pope

Interview with Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt by Meriem Senous

At what stage are we in the pope’s election process?

 

There are 18 candidates for the election of the pope, 10 of whom are monks. In the ancient tradition, the pope was always elected from among the monks but over the years there have been exceptions. Pope Shenouda himself had changed this rule in allowing bishops to run for election. In fact, there are two kinds of bishops in the Orthodox Copts: the ones called metropolitans, or that is to say those who have eparchies (=dioceses), and those with the title of bishop, but without functions. Today we have 18 candidatures presented to the Committee in charge but the elections have not begun yet. It is all rather slow and will still take some months.

 

 

Do you think that the election of the President of the Republic can influence the election of the pope?

 

According to the results of the presidential elections we find ourselves before two fronts, an Islamist front and one that can be defined as civil (madanî). The two groups are almost on an equal footing. In the case of an election of an Islamist candidate, a pope would be needed capable of leading his church in a difficult if not hostile context.

 

 

Are there any emerging figures among the candidates?

 

Actually the candidates’ names are not yet known but from what can be understood here and there there is Anba Youssef, who would be the bishop favoured by the young people. He is old and ill and might therefore withdraw his candidature.

 

 

Coming back to the elections, can you give us an outline of the general situation after the results of the first round?

 

Between the Islamist candidate, Mursi, and the candidate representing the old regime (Shafik), the Socialists are in third place. They have to decide with whom to make an alliance. The tendency would be to create an alliance with Shafik, on the condition that the latter gives them room for movement, adopts some of their ideas and proposes a position of prime minister or vice-president in order to try and allure them. Otherwise it will be the Islamists that will gain from this.

 

 

And the Christians?

 

Most of the Christians have voted for the non-religious candidates. That is to say, for General Shafik, and Amr Moussa. It is also true that many of the young people have voted for the Socialist Sabahi, as it is a party that was born with the 25 January revolution and deals with issues of poverty, unemployment, social inequality, and injustice. Their approach is compatible with the idealism of the young…A positive point that came out of these elections is that the vote of the Christians’ was important. There are about 4 million Christian electors and this is quite a number. They too carried General Shafik to the second round.

 

To come back to the election of the pope, in your opinion when will he be elected?

 

It is not clear yet but not before 3 or 4 months. Ideally the pope should have been elected before the presidential elections but this was not possible.

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