Coptic Orthodox Pope Rejects Egypt Court's Ruling on Remarriage

The head of Egypt's largest Christian church body is urging the country's high court to reconsider its recent decision to allow Coptic Christians to remarry after divorce.

"The decision must be reviewed," Pope Shenouda III told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

"The Coptic Church respects the law but it does not accept rulings that go against the Bible and our freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the constitution," added Shenouda, whose papacy in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria spans nearly four decades.

The pontiff went on to say marriage is "not a simple administrative act" but a sacred and religious one.

"This statement expresses our rejection of the ruling," Shenouda declared after revealing a document issued by 91 bishops from his denomination's Holy Synod – the highest authority in the 15.4 million-large church body.

Last week, Egypt's High Administrative Court concluded that Coptic Christians can remarry and that the country's constitution guarantees their right to have a new family.

"The appeal by Pope Shenouda III to prevent Copts from remarrying is rejected," the court stated, referring to Shenouda's appeal to a lower court ruling.

Presently, remarriage is forbidden within the Coptic Church except for those whose spouses were found guilty of adultery or had converted to another faith, including other branches of Christianity.

Second marriage for divorcees is a religious issue, governed by the Bible, Shenouda told reporters Tuesday.

"Whoever wants to remain within the Church has to abide by its laws," he added.

That said, the Coptic Orthodox pope maintained that the high court's ruling is not acceptable and cannot be implemented by the church body.

"If everyone got a divorce and looked for a second wife, the Coptic family would lose its moral compass," Shenouda argued.

According to Bishop Paula of Tanta, head of the Coptic Orthodox Council for Marital Affairs, the number of divorce cases within the Coptic community each year currently ranges between 200 and 650.

Though they only count for about ten percent of the largely Muslim country's 80-million population, Coptic Christians make up the Middle East's largest Christian community. Around 95 percent of Egypt's Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.