The pope and the holy virgin

This very nice piece by Youssef Ramez on appearances of the Virgin Mary in Egypt over the course of 2010 has a great passage that encapsulates very nicely Pope Shenouda III:

Le pape Chenouda III, primat de l'Eglise copte orthodoxe a affirmé lors de l'un de ses sermons hebdomadaires que les visites de la vierge en Egypte étaient avant tout motivée par son amour pour le pays qu'elle a connu pour l'avoir visité lors de l'enfance du Christ: «quand le pays lui manque, de temps à autre, alors elle s'y rend pour une visite». Il ne manque pas de rappeler au passage que «nos frères musulmans l'ont même vue avant les chrétiens», qu'ils «reconnaissent son héroïsme» et la «révèrent et l'aiment autant sinon plus que certains protestants chrétiens».

My translation:

Pope Shenouda III, primate of the Coptic Orthodox Church, affirmed during one of his weekly sermons that the visits of the Holy Virgin to Egypt were motivated by her love for the country, which she knew from visiting it during Christ's childhood: "when she misses the country, she decides to make a visit." He did not fail to remind in passing that "our Muslim brothers even saw her before the Christians", that "they recognize her heroism" and "revere her as much if not more than some Christian Protestants."

This combines classic Egyptian chauvinism with the usual token cross-sectarian stuff and the obligatory protestant-bashing — in fact the article goes on to cite a church publication that the Virgin came to Egypt to warn about the protestants.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.