An administrative court in Cairo on April 12 confirmed the late President Sadat's decree stripping the head of Egypt's largest Christian community of all his temporal powers.
LONDON, UK, 27 JANUARY 1979 (REUTERS)
SV & GV Pope Shenouda preaching in church
CAIRO, EGYPT FEBRUARY 1977 (REUTERS)
GV President Sadat meets Coptic dignatories and sits next to Pope Shenouda
CAIRO, JANUARY 1980: (REUTERS)
GV EXTERIOR People at prayer at the Mosque of Al Azhar. 0.47
BETHLEHEM, ISRAEL, JANUARY 1983 (REUTERS)
GVs & SVs Main square. Coptic Bishop in procession. Security guards watch. Crowd. Bishop enters Church of Nativity.
CAIRO, JANUARY 1983 (REUTERS)
GV PAN INTERIOR Choir singing in St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral. Procession led by Bishop Gregorius. SCU Bishop Gregorius. Bishop breaks bread and blesses wine.
WADI NATRUN MONASTERY, APRIL 1980 (REUTERS)
GV EXTERIOR Monastery. GV Monk standing outside. SV INTERIOR Portrait of Shenouda on wall
CAIRO, APRIL 1980 (REUTERS)
SV ZOOM TO SCU Pope Shenouda at press conference
CAIRO, APRIL 1983 (REUTERS)
GV & SV EXTERIOR Court building. GV & SV PAN Security guards around building.
Background: An administrative court in Cairo on April 12 confirmed the late President Sadat's decree stripping the head of Egypt's largest Christian community of all his temporal powers. The court also called for the church to elect a new leader to replace the Coptic Pope Shenouda III. The verdict highlighted the plight of Egypt's estimated six million Copts who, have long been in conflict with the country's 37 million Moslem majority.
: Shenouda, 58, was crowned ten years ago and led a religious revival that fostered the ethnic identity of Egypt's Copts as a nation separate from, and older than, the Moslems.
Anger swept the Copt community when the Egyptian president stripped their leader of all his powers in September 1981. He was banished to a desert monastery where he has been for the past 20 months. President Sadat also appointed a caretaker committee of five bishops to replace Shenouda.
Moslems were also a target of the purge. The President, who was assassinated a month later by Moslem fanatics arrested a total of 1,600 people. There was also a plan for the Government to take over the country's 40,000 privately owned mosques like these where many Egyptian Moslems worship.
Bethlehem in January and the Copts celebrate their Christmas. The Bishop Dr. Anba Basilios is greeted by Church dignatories and enters the Church of Nativity. The Copts in Egypt are the largest Christian entity in any Middle Eastern country -- they receive support from communities like this in Israel, the US and Canada.
Christmas celebrations in St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Cairo were subdued this year because of the banishment of Shenouda. In his place the procession was led by Bishop Gregorius. Many Copts feel that they, and not the Arabised Moslems are the true Egyptians, the descendants of the Pharaohs. Shenouda himself aggressively resisted what he saw as the increasing Islamization of the country.
The monastery of Wadi Natrun. It is here that Pope Shenouda has been banished for the past 20 months. The interior minister has visited the Pope and it was reporter the Pope had asked why he was still banished when President Mubarak had released hundreds of Moslem fundamentalists and most of the Copts arrested in 1981.
There is no doubt that the Pope's banishment has caused turmoil in the Coptic Church and his case has been the cause of a number of controversial court cases.
Matters were brought to a head in this court-room on April 12. The court confirmed President Sadat's decree. But the Pope's chief lawyer Hanna Nayrouz said they Holy Synod would not depose the Pope or hold new elections. Meanwhile, Shenouda the III remains in Wadi Natrun -- a potential source of embarrassment for the authorities and a symbol of freedom for the six million Egyptian Copts.