Coptic Church: No visits to the Holy Land as long as it is named ‘Israel’

Egypt’s Christian leadership says pope’s travel ban still in force

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

As Egyptian pilgrims return from Easter visits to Jerusalem and other Christian holy sites in Israel, the Coptic Church of Egypt reiterated the travel ban defied by the visitors.

Bishop Bakhomious, the church leader since the death of Pope Shenouda III on March 17, renewed his predecessor’s directive, declaring that “the Pope’s decision not to visit Jerusalem is still in place, and all followers of the Church must adhere to it,” independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Tuesday.

Coptic pilgrims leaving for Israel last week were criticized by Egypt’s leading daily Al-Ahram for defying the deceased leader’s edict and purportedly granting legitimacy to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem.

Al-Masry Al-Youm monitored the return of 395 Coptic pilgrims to Cairo airport aboard Air Sinai flights on Sunday and Monday.

Bishop Raphael, a church official, told Egyptian media that the travel ban to Israel was not a personal decision limited to Pope Shenouda, but rather a resolution passed by the church’s Holy Synod. He said that Copts will not visit the Holy land “as long as it is named Israel.”

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