Hundreds Protest Egypt Court's Ruling on Coptic Remarriage

Several hundred Christians gathered in Egypt's capital city Wednesday to protest a high court ruling on remarriage within the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The demonstrators, hailing from different parts of Egypt, rallied in support of their denomination's leader, Pope Shenouda III, who had appealed to Egypt's High Administrative Court in an effort to prevent the government from forcing his church body into issuing re-marriage permits for divorcees.

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.

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

"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," said the pontiff, whose papacy in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria spans nearly four decades.

Though the court's ruling cannot be appealed, Shenouda has urged the country's high court to reconsider its decision, arguing that marriage is "not a simple administrative act" but a sacred and religious one.

On Tuesday, he revealed a document issued by 91 bishops from his denomination's Holy Synod – the highest authority in the 15.4 million-large church body.

"This statement expresses our rejection of the ruling," Shenouda declared.

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. They also account for around 95 percent of Egypt's Christian population.

Wednesday's demonstration reportedly rallied up to 10,000 people on the grounds of St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo, including clergy from various Christian denominations and members of different Coptic human rights organizations.

A larger protest was expected at a later date.