Egypt: Spectacular But Fragile Momentum in Church Construction

Source: FSSPX News

The Patriarch of Alexandria for Copts, His Beatitude Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak

The site Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) speaks of “pharaonic work,” and estimates that “It is probable that, in the history of the Middle East, such a great number of churches being built at the same time as in this year in Egypt has never been seen.” The reason for this momentum was provided in an interview with the Patriarch of Alexandria for Copts, Ibrahim Sidrak.

In an article published on January 23 on the same site, His Beatitude Ibrahim Sidrak, Primate of the Catholic Copts of Egypt and Patriarch of Alexandria, who heads the small Egyptian Coptic Catholic Church of around 300,000 faithful, explained the current situation of Copts in Egypt.

The journalist notes that “unlike other countries in the Middle East,” there is no strong Copt emigration. The Patriarch then makes a double remark. On one hand, he points out the good integration of Christians in Egypt.

On the other hand, he says that “unlike other neighboring countries where religious freedom has diminished, ours has instead improved. Over the past ten years, there has been real progress for our community. Our churches are recognized by the State and there have been fewer acts of violence against us than before.”

The Patriarch continues with the episode of the advent of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood ten years ago, which he remembers as a terrible period. “It was very risky for a Christian to alone in the street. Our churches were threatenes, hundreds were burned,” he explains. But “now, we live in relative security.”

Later, His Beatitude Ibrahim Sidrak emphasizes the quality of the 180 Coptic Catholic schools, where “many Muslims wish to place their children, and some of the members of the government have gone through them.” But what the Copts need most of all is churches. “The government removed the difficulties which obstructed the construction of new churches, and each diocese has construction projects.”

“One of the building sites most symbolic of this thirst of Catholic Copts for reconstruction is our cathedral of Luxor, which had been burned and will soon be restored,” the prelate concluded.

The Fever for Churches

In an article published on May 6, 2024, ACN sees Christians starting “construction of hundreds of churches,” thanks to the simplification of processes granted by the El-Sisi government. Egypt’s prosperity also has something to do with it, but this stability is threatened for various reasons.

And the dream risks being shattered for economic reasons. “The largest importer of wheat in the world, in 2022 it was dependent on Ukraine and Russia for 80% of this essential food product,” ACN notes. At at present, “the price of raw materials is exploding at the same time as the foreign debt. Egypt is now the second country most at risk of defaulting on its debt, just behind Ukraine.”

But, as Patriarch Ibrahim Sidrak explains, “churches represent the heart of our communities and they are difficult to access for many parishioners. Those who live far away must dedicate up to a quarter of their salary to bringing their family by bus to the church for Sunday Mass.” A beautiful example of Faith in the midst of a Muslim country.

It must be hoped that this drive for reconstruction will be successful in doing as much as possible, and that this country, which welcomed Christ during His exile, continues to welcome His presence through His Church.