By Javier Fariñas and John Newton
CHRISTIANS in Egypt can expect a better future after years of being second-class citizens, according to the acting head of the country’s Coptic Catholic Church.
Speaking yesterday (11th July) at an Aid to the Church in Need press conference in Madrid, Spain, Bishop Kyrillos William, administrator of the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, expressed his hopes for Egypt’s Christians following the election of former Muslim Brotherhood member, Mohammed Mursi.
“The future will not be worse than what we have had before,” said the bishop.
Bishop William, who is standing in for Cardinal Patriarch Antonios Naguib, incapacitated by a stroke last year, expressed his confidence that President Mursi will keep promises he made after the elections to govern for everyone regardless of religion.
“In Egypt we all are Egyptian – whether Christian or Muslim – and the President has promised that there will be a Copt and a woman appointed as vice-presidents.
“Although we still do not know who will be appointed, we trust he will keep his word.”
Bishop William said the post-election situation of the Christians in Egypt is not one of persecution – adding “it is better here than in many other countries” – but confirmed that Church members had frequently experienced prejudice, particularly before the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
He said: “Christians were discriminated in various ways, not having the right to hold senior government positions and being treated like second-class citizens”.
The prelate said he was optimistic, adding the future looks more certain that it did prior to the elections.
Bishop William said the work of the Catholic Church was widely appreciated in the country – in particular its contribution to education.
He added: “In Egypt we have 170 Catholic schools, and many of the leaders of the country send their children there, although they are not Catholics.
“This it means that when their children are older and running the country, they will be more open in their relations with us Christians and more respectful.”
In Egypt, Christians are a minority, making up 9 percent of the population. There are no more than 250,000 Catholics out of a total population of 83 million.
Bishop William thanked Aid to the Church in Need for its ongoing support for Egypt’s Christians.
The charity has backed various projects particularly those helping with training and education.
In Tema, a small town about 250 miles (400 kilometres) south of Cairo, Aid to the Church in Need supported the building of a new pastoral centre.
The bishop said: “On numerous occasions, I have felt the closeness and the help of this charity that gives so much good to us.
“Thank you very much.”
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information, contact John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.