Last updated: 5 November, 2012

Pope urges Egypt’s Coptic leader to promote peace

Pope Benedict XVI urged the new pope of Egypt’s Coptic Christians on Monday to contribute to peace in Egypt amid fears among the minority over its future under an Islamist-led government.

“I am confident that … you will be an effective partner with all your fellow citizens in building the new Egypt in peace and harmony,” the pontiff said in a congratulatory message to the newly elected leader, Pope Tawadros II.

Tawadros was chosen as the new Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa in the Holy See of St Mark the Apostle on Sunday.

The path to peace would serve “the good of the entire Middle East,” said Benedict, who added that he was “filled with joy” at Tawadros’s election.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up between six and 10 percent of its 83 million-strong population, have faced a surge in sectarian attacks after a popular uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

In his message, Benedict also welcomed the progress made in the dialogue between the Orthodox Copts and a Catholic minority in Egypt.

“In these challenging times it is important for all Christians to bear witness to the love and fellowship that binds them together,” he said.

“I thank the Almighty for the important progress that was made, under the leadership of your esteemed predecessor, in the relations between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church,” he said.

Tawadros succeeds pope Shenuda III, who died in March. Amid increased fears about the community’s future after Mubarak’s overthrow, the new pope will be their main contact with Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first Islamist president.