The Coptic church works as an organization within Egypt that has to deal with the Egyptian state. Such relationship is a must to allow the church to do its job. Therefore, it has been always trying to have a good relationship with the state that tries to use the church to achieve its own interests. Therefore, as long as the church's interests goes well with the state's, there is no problem, but if they are not, there are many serious problems.
Few weeks ago, Coptic Church found itself in a difficult situation as the government was troubled because of the calls to demonstrate against MB in August 24. They were troubled even more with a rumor that the Copts are planning to use violence and to burn the headquarters of MB. The government has decided to use the church to face the demonstrations.
Days before the demonstration, Mr. Refaah al-Tahtawi, head of the Office of the Egyptian President, has gone to the papal residence to meet with Abba Pachomious, the acting Patriarch, to find out about the openion of the Copts concerning that demonstrations, and deliver a message for the Coptic Chruch to convence the Copts not to participate in such demonstrations. I was troubled as I thought it's to repeat the techniques of the former regime.
It was a difficult situation in which the Coptic Church had to be independent, and it really was. We are a spirtual organization that doesn't work in politics or public work, said Abba Pachomious.
Abba Pachomious added that church has nothing to do with such demonstartion, and the Copts are participating in it as Egyptians and not as church members. He added that church teachings refuse using violence or burning any headquarters of any political party. For his part, Dr. Safwat al-Bayaadi, head the Anglican Communion, said that Copts after the January 25 revolution became much more active and independent concerning politics and their awareness has increased a lot. Furthermore, father Rafiq Griesh, spokesman for the Catholic Church, said that church has nothing to do with such demonstrations, and it believes only in peaceful demonstrations.
I do not think that the government or the Copts have admired such announcements of the Egyptian churches as each party had expected to get the support of the churches.
Relationship between Church and politics is not a clear issue as the Pope is the one who decides how it should be. For instance, Pope Cyril VI tended to stay away from politics and depended on his friendship with President Abdul Nasser to solve the problems of the church. He used to say he is a cleric and not a politician and his job is to pray for the officials that God may give them wisdom to do their job.
After Pope Cyril, came Pope Shenouda III who had a completely different character. He was pretty much a politician who had worked before as journalist, poet, writer and a reserve officer. He used all these qualifications after he became the Pope. So, he wrote articles, made interviews, and talked about many political issues.
At first, President Sadat was so happy with Pope Shenouda III and used his capabilities to support his rule. But soon Sadat had disagreement with the Pope as he did not like some of his views. Then, Sadat rejected the participation of the clergy in politics completly saying: "no politics in religion and no religion in politics".
I believe that clerics have the right to participate in politics as Egyptian citizins, but not as the political leader for the Copts. Coptic Christians should be independant from the church as they need no guardianship anymore.