The Archbishop of Canterbury has assured Christians and Muslims in Egypt that all who strive for peace and reconciliation in the region”are not forgotten.”
In Cairo on the first day of his visit to Egypt and the Holy Land,the Archbishop met with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the head ofCoptic Orthodox Church, and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh MohamedAhmed el-Tayeb, among other leaders.
Visiting Egypt at the invitation of the Most Revd Mouneer Anis,President Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the MiddleEast, the Archbishop told Egyptian Christian leaders that “the prayersand solidarity of the Anglican Communion” are with them.The meetings also focused on the need to deepen both the dialogue andbonds between Christian traditions, and between Christians and Muslims.
The Archbishop met His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the head of theCoptic Orthodox Church, and discussed with him “how the Church canflourish and grow” whatever local challenges it faces around the world.
His Holiness was accompanied at his residence by Metropolitan Bishoy,co-chairman of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission,Bishop Thomas of Quosia, Bishop Youannes and Bishop Angaelos, GeneralBishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.
The Archbishop and the Pope reflected together on the importance forthe Oriental Orthodox family and the Anglican Communion of theresumption (in the UK later this year) of the Anglican Oriental OrthodoxInternational Theological Commission.
They expressed their “delight” that official theological dialogueaimed at visible unity and witness was once again part ofAnglican-Oriental Orthodox relations. Having previously completed anagreed statement on the person of Jesus Christ, the commission will turnits attention to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.
Archbishop Justin was also “particularly pleased” to hear from thePope and his colleagues how, since the Pope’s inauguration, the CopticChurch is responding to the challenges in contemporary Egyptian life. Heoffered his support for the new council of churches in Egypt, whichdraws together the strength and vision of all the Churches.
Thanking the Archbishop for travelling to Cairo, Pope Tawadros said:
“We must build our dialogue and studies on love and crown them withprayers; we must also prepare our people to love, accept and work witheach other in the spirit of unity found in John 17,” which containsJesus’ prayer that his disciples may all be one.
Following what he called a “warm and joyful meeting”, ArchbishopJustin said: “We had a very wide-ranging discussion, coming back severaltimes to the question of how the Church can flourish and grow inprayer, in love for one another and in teaching of the scriptures to ourcontemporaries. It’s important that we find a way of enabling ouraffection for one another to be transformed into effective sharedwitness.”
Archbishop Justin added that he “had the opportunity to express theprayer and solidarity of the Anglican Communion with all the Christiansof the Middle East as they seek the common good of their variousnations.”
The Archbishop also met with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, SheikMohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb in Cairo, Egypt, in which they affirmed theimportance of the ongoing dialogue between the Anglican Communion andAl-Azhar at such a critical time for Egypt and the wider region.
In the meeting, Archbishop Justin expressed his appreciation for theway in which the Grand Imam and Al-Azhar have spoken up for rights ofall the people of Egypt. He later said that the Grand Imam “is someonewhose heart is committed to the work he does in interfaith dialogue -which he’s extremely good at – and a deep concern for all the people ofthe region, whatever their background.”
He heard about the innovative inter-religious workshops pioneered byBishop Mouneer, with the Coptic Church, other local churches andAl-Azhar. The programme brings together imams and priests from placeswhich have experienced inter-religious tension and even violence. BishopMouneer spoke of how at their last meeting some of these priests andimams, having shared so deeply with each other, parted with tears.
Archbishop Justin also spoke about the strong relations betweenChristians and Muslims in the UK. He mentioned his recent meeting withSheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain which demonstratedtheir solidarity in the aftermath of the “despicable murder” of DrummerLee Rigby in London.
Archbishop Justin was accompanied throughout the day by PresidentBishop Mouneer, The Rt Revd Michael Lewis, Bishop of Cyprus and theGulf, The Rt Revd Grant LeMarquand, Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa,and members of the Lambeth Palace ecumenical and inter-religiousoffices.
During his visit, Archbishop Justin preached in Cairo’s Anglican AllSaints Cathedral at the Alexandria School of Theology (AST) graduationservice. Giving the commencement address, he told the graduates: “Thisis a moment when we need encouragement, and you bring encouragement. TheAST is a gift to the whole Anglican Communion. Your lives will bechanged, and you will change the lives of those around you. ”
He reminded himself and them that, amidst all the distractions ofchurch life, the most important thing for the Church is “to remember tocome to Jesus Christ. We are called, as individuals and together, firstand foremost, to know and love God in Jesus Christ.”
The Archbishop also met with children from the Anglican/EpiscopalDiocese of Egypt’s ministry for the deaf, who led the congregation inmorning prayers and presented the Archbishop with a handmade gift of amodel pyramid. Archbishop Justin said he was “delighted and touched” tomeet the children and receive their prayers and gift.
Archbishop Justin expressed much gratitude for his visit to Egypt. “Ihave been enormously inspired to spend time with Bishop Mouneer and tosee something of his loving ministry here in Cairo and across theProvince,” he said. ” His Christ-centred leadership provides greatencouragement amid the many challenges faced across the region, whilehis generous leadership of the Global South offers much hope for theAnglican Communion.”