Church leader hopeful about Egypt's future
Published 13 July 2012 | Javier Fariñas and John Newton, Aid to the Church in Need
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 on Wednesday 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 Morsi.
“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 Morsi 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.”