A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pope Tawadros' Enthronement and The Man Who Wasn't There

Yesterday, Coptic Pope Tawadros II was enthroned as the 118th successor of Saint Mark. The picture at left is of him being greeted by Egyptian  Prime Minister Hisham Qandil. Don't worry if you didn't immediately recognize the Prime Minister. Many Egyptians have the same problem. What is more important is the man who isn't in the picture: President Muhammad Morsi. My previous post this afternoon was moderately favorable to Morsi. Here's the other side of the coin.

Morsi's decision not to attend the enthronement has not been explained very clearly; but it seems tone deaf that a man who has regularly insisted that Copts and Muslims are all equally Egyptians would not attend the installation of the first new Coptic Pope in 40 years. Among Egyptian bloggers, Zeinobia assumes he's catering to the Salafis; Salama Moussa suggested the Coptic Church should leave one empty seat open in the front row, "to remind all Egyptians that they lack a leader in their President. The gross indecency of his absence can only be confronted by the eloquent silence of emptiness." The Arabist calls it an "absolutely flabbergasting decision."

Readers may recall that when Egyptian troops died in Sinai this summer, Morsi also gave their funeral a pass and sent Qandil, that time blaming "security concerns."

That same link above to Issandr at The Arabist has far nicer things to say about the new Pope himself. He points to the Pope's interview at Daily News Egypt, particularly his response when the Muslim Brotherhood's dominating Freedom and Justice Party visited him:
Two days ago we had a visit from the representatives of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Wadi Al-Natrun, where the monastery is located. They asked me what I would wish for from the FJP. I replied that I request two things from the FJP; freedom and justice, only.
Great answer. I think this Pope could prove interesting.

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