There is a glimmer of hope in Egypt: a new law on the personal status of Christians in the country should be submitted to Parliament at the end of January 2022. The future text aims to protect the rights of a minority which represents approximately 11% of the Egyptian population.
A bill intending to carve out a tailor-made legal status for the Christian minority of the country will be examined by Parliament, as soon as it returns.
The preliminary examination of the text – desired by Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, upon his accession to power in 2014 – nevertheless took a long time. The revision process required no less than 16 working sessions which brought together experts, government officials, and representatives of different Christian denominations.
It was then necessary to convene the civil authorities in order to refine the text and obtain the consensus of all the ecclesial communities on the wording of the articles of the bill.
This law is supposed to protect the matrimonial rights of Christians, and more generally to grant a particular status to this community which represents 11% of the total population of Egypt, and which constitutes the largest group of faithful in the Middle East, since approximately one out of two Eastern Christians is Egyptian.
The elaboration of the text took longer than expected, due to the difficulty of guaranteeing and harmonizing the different disciplinary approaches on issues such as marital separation and divorce, which are regulated differently depending on whether one has deal with Catholic or non-Catholic Copts.
The future law should in any case benefit the Catholic minority which, in 2015, counted 272,000 faithful – or some 0.27% of the population – spread over 213 parishes and 15 dioceses.
Among them, different rites coexist: Catholic Copts – the most numerous with around 200,000 faithful – along with Latin, Greek-Catholic, Syriac, Maronite, Chaldean, and Armenian Catholic.
The Church in Egypt has existed since Apostolic times, since tradition reports the presence of the Evangelist St. Mark, making it one of the oldest churches in the world. The Copts consider themselves to be authentic Egyptians, descendants of the pharaohs.
This Church was divided after the Council of Chalcedon (451) on the question of the double nature of Christ, the majority considering in the Word incarnate a single nature, a mixture of human and divine nature. This is known as Monophysitism.
It should be noted that the present-day pre-Chalcedonian Copts no longer profess a radical Monophysitism, but have come much closer to the Catholic doctrine on the two natures of Christ.