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Monday, April 09, 2012

St. Helena Chapel in Jerusalem bans Egyptian Copts from praying

I noted last week that for the first time, hundreds of Egyptian Copts were flocking to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, after Coptic Pope Shenouda III - who was opposed to such pilgrimages - died.

The church stated at the time that "the Church is a religious institution that does not control the freedom of individuals does not impose laws on them."

Those pilgrims were denied access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

From Al Ahram:
The St Helena Chapel, the Egyptian [Coptic] part of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, has denied entry to Egyptian Christians who sought to celebrate Easter there.

Defying a ban by the late Pope Shenouda III, more than one hundred Egyptian Copts flew to Jerusalem to visit landmarks in the holy land.

We neither allowed them to pray nor to break their fast. That infuriated them to the extent that some of them wanted to fight us,” Priest Mesaael told the Egyptian state-run news agency MENA.

“The instructions of the late Pope Shenouda are still valid, we have to respect them even more than we did when he was alive.”
This is all in context of a larger dispute in the Arab world on whether visiting Jerusalem is a form of normalizing relations with Israel. Mahmoud Abbas wants Arabs to visit but he is opposed by many clerics including the late Pope Shenouda, popular Qatar-based preacher Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi and Sheikh Sabri, head of the Islamic Council of Jerusalem.

Notably, Crown Prince Hashim of Jordan visited the Al Aqsa Mosque last week.