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Egypt: bishops will not call for repeal of Islam as state religion

Catholic World News - February 25, 2011

The Catholic bishops of Egypt will not call for the repeal of Article 2 of the nation’s constitution, which declares Islam to the state religion.

Thousands of Coptic Christians marched in Cairo on February 20 to demand the removal of Article 2 from the Egyptian constitution. Article 2 reads: “Islam is the religion of the state. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia).”

At a recent meeting, Egypt’s Catholic bishops decided “we will never ask for its abolition because it would [injure] the feelings of Muslims,” said Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut. “In the future we will ask to add some assurances for the non-Muslim communities.”

Bishop William traces much of the Muslim-Christian tension in Egypt to an incident two years ago when a Coptic Orthodox layman “committed an act of sacrilege against Islam”-- an incident that led to the brutal murder of his parish priest.

0.3% of the nation’s 79.1 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics. An estimated 5-10% of Egyptians are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

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  • Posted by: R. Spanier (Catholic Canadian) - Feb. 27, 2011 12:04 AM ET USA

    Yes, our clergy certainly deserve respect - "in persona Christi" our Lord ministers through them. Therefore, instead of having written, "Aren’t Egypt’s Bishops" I should have phrased it "Aren’t we..." My concerns stem from what could be perceived as subordination of Christ and his Church to Islam and its followers and the fact that "the source and synthesis of these (human) rights is religious freedom…..." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 155)

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Feb. 25, 2011 8:11 PM ET USA

    I have profound respect for the clergy in the Middle East. Their blood can be and is shed whenever the wind blows the wrong way. It would be nothing to eradicate them and the world would say little. Witness how Christians are treated now. They are not living in the US where one can say whatever one wants without deadly retaliation.

  • Posted by: R. Spanier (Catholic Canadian) - Feb. 25, 2011 7:56 AM ET USA

    Aren't Egypts Catholic bishops called to seek equal religious freedom? "If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as well." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2107)

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