New pope says Egypt's constitution must be inclusive

Tue Nov 6, 2012 5:10am GMT

By Edmund Blair and Yasmine Saleh

WADI EL-NATRUN, Egypt (Reuters) - The new Coptic Orthodox pope said on Monday that a constitution being drafted by Egypt's politicians must be inclusive and the church would oppose any text that only addressed one part of the Muslim-majority nation.

Pope Tawadros II, picked on Sunday in a ceremony steeped in the traditions of a church that predates Islam's arrival in Egypt, also told Reuters that Christians should be more active in seeking to shape Egypt's politics after last year's revolt.

The 60-year-old pope, the 118th to lead a church that traces its origins back to the early era of Christianity, has taken the helm when many Christians who make up about a tenth of the nation's 83 million people are alarmed by the rise of Islamists.

Christians had for decades felt shoved to the margins of society and politics. Yet, even though many joined the uprising to oust Hosni Mubarak, they now worry they will be pushed further aside by Islamists who the former president repressed.

"The beauty of Egyptian society is the presence of Muslims beside Christians. Diversity is strong and beautiful," the pope said in an interview at a desert monastery, where a day earlier he learned his name had been picked out of a glass bowl by a blindfolded boy in an elaborate ceremony at a Cairo cathedral.

Three names, selected in a vote, had been put in the bowl for choosing the man who would replace Pope Shenouda III, the figurehead for Egypt's Orthodox Christians for four decades.

Bearded, bespectacled and wearing the long black robes of a priest, the new pope said Egypt's diversity should be reflected in the constitution being drawn up by a 100-person assembly, which is dominated by Islamists but also includes Muslim and Christian religious leaders, liberals and other politicians.

"If a good constitution is presented in which every person finds himself (represented), there is no doubt Egypt will develop," said the pope, who trained in Egypt and Britain as a pharmacist before being ordained into the priesthood.   Continued...

Pope Tawadros II, the newly-selected 118th pope of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, smiles during an interview at the Wadi Natrun Monastery complex, northwest of Cairo, November 5, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
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