Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that Pope Tawadros II did not obtain an Israeli visa for his visit to Jerusalem last Thursday, responding to domestic criticisms which said the visit was a violation of a longtime popular rejection of normal ties with Israel.
Pope Tawadros II was attending the funeral of Bishop Abraham, Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Near East, who died on Wednesday, escorted by delegation of eight senior church clerics. He defended his decision to go to Israel, calling it a "duty".
Tawadros' visit to Israel was the first made by a head of the Egyptian Church since 1967 when his predecessor, late Pope Shenouda III, imposed a ban on visiting the holy city while under Israeli occupation.
According to a statement by the church on Sunday, the Pope’s visit came after coordination with the Palestinian Authority. “Pope Tawadros II did not meet with any officials from either the Israeli or the Palestinian side during his stay in Jerusalem. There shall be no room for speculation or propaganda on the concept of normalization,” said the statement. “There is no need to view the situation from a political perspective.”
“The church’s stance remains unchanged, no visits to Jerusalem except with the company of the Egyptian masses.”
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm