Head of the Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II declined an invitation from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit Ramallah, according to a statement issued by the Coptic Orthodox Church on Saturday.
The Pope said he would not visit Ramallah unless he is in the company of Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam as well.
Tawadros II is currently on an exceptional visit in Jerusalem to attend the funeral of Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Abraham of Jerusalem and the Near East on Saturday.
Abbas expressed his condolences to Tawadros II for the loss of Archbishop Abraham in a telephone call, and apologised for not attending the funeral since he travelled to attend the climate summit in Paris. Instead, the PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat will head a Palestinian delegation to attend the funeral.
The visit is the first of its kind since 1967 and is of historic importance, given that the late pope Shenouda III issued a papal ban on pilgrimages to Israel in 1979 as a clear stance against the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, and in favour of an independent Palestinian state.
The Misr Al-Qawia and Nasserist Karama parties condemned Tawadros II’s visit, claiming it will cause a crack in resisting normalisation of relations with Israel.
The Coptic Church however stressed in a statement on Friday that their stance regarding visiting Palestinian territories did not change and that “there are no visits to Jerusalem except along with the rest of Egyptians”.
The body of Archbishop Abraham was supposed to be brought to Egypt, where Tawadros II would have performed the funeral prayers. However, the will of Archbishop Abraham, who is considered to be the second most important figure following the Pope in the Coptic Holy Synod, was to be buried in Jerusalem.
“If it was not for the will, Tawadros II would not have needed to travel,” the statement read.
The church does not put political equations into consideration and all its actions are pastoralist and nationalist.”Things should be put in the right perspective; the goal behind the visit is for the funeral prayers only,” the statement read.