Egypt's Christians Feel Alienated Under Islamist Rule, Says New Catholic Patriarch

H.B. Patriarch Ibrahim Ishaq. | (Photo: Middle East Christian News)

In his first interview after being elected to his new role the Egyptian Catholic Patriarch has spoken out about how the Coptic Christians in the country are feeling increasingly alienated under the new Islamist rule in the nation.

Patriarch Ibrahim Ishaq of the Coptic Catholics in Egypt was elected by the Catholic Synod following the resignation of Patriarch Antonious Naguib. In his first interview since that appointment he discussed a number of important issues the country is currently facing, especially the problems facing Copts.

"Copts, like others, feel alienated under the rule of the Islamists, and I hope they do not migrate so that the society does not lose an important component," H.B Patriarch Ishaq said.

"Do not ask me about the January revolution as a Copt, but as an Egyptian," he countered when asked about his opinion on the situation in Egypt after the Jan. 25 revolution. "I feel sad when I see all these events, and not a celebration of the revolution's second anniversary, which should have been like a joyful wedding and a great celebration of the change we aspired to."

He added, "The atmosphere is tense, especially after the deaths and injuries of the people, which makes these celebrations painful. What makes me optimistic is the nature of Egyptian citizens, who are so kind and so smart. Whoever claims that Egyptians are idiots is a liar. They know what they want to reach. We always pray for reform and I hope Egypt overcomes this transitional phase."

When speaking about the priorities of the next stage, Patriarch Ishaq said, "I have not made my priorities so far and I am waiting until I discuss them with the rest of the bishops. I feel that the circumstances in which we live inside the church and the situation in the country and all over the world need people who can bring different parties together. I feel it is an invitation that I will seek to achieve in the people who will be chosen as my associates and I will advise those who work with me to make this reconciliation among all groups."

"One of the most important services I fulfilled in Minya was to bring people together as a team and not as individuals and they excelled in it," the patriarch noted. "The church lacks charismatic personalities, so I will diligently search for qualified staff."

Speaking about his pastoral work, Patriarch Ishaq said that the problem of pastoral work lies in Cairo and Alexandria because people in these governorates are very busy due to the nature of their jobs. "I will seek to resolve this, especially as we are servants of people, knowing that we will fall short whatever we do in the pastoral work."

"The requirements of the church are facing disruption of bureaucracy. People intervention in the responsibilities of the state raises problems, so we call on officials to enforce the law," the patriarch added.

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