Greek Orthodox leader to AO: Church alone will govern Christians' personal-status issues
Sherry El-Gergawi, Thursday 27 Sep 2012
In a Thursday letter to Ahram Online, Archbishop Nicholas, spokesman for
the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria, said that recent requests by
the so-called '38 Copts Association' to make Egyptian Christians subject
to Islamic Law in regards to personal-status issues – particularly
divorce – was "unacceptable."
"This group [38 Copts] does not reflect the church's opinion; it only
represents itself and its own agenda," said Nicholas.
He added that the group had "issued their demand merely to solve their
own problems with the Coptic Orthodox Church to which they belong; this
is an internal Coptic problem in which other churches should not get
"Each church has its own rules governing marriage and divorce, approved
by the state in which they are located and used in the state's
personal-status courts," he added.
Nicholas stressed that the Greek Orthodox Church continued to adhere to
church regulations issued in 1937, "which include all regulations on
personal-status issues; we therefore have no problems with our
congregants in this regard."
The archbishop went on to point to a proposed 'unified personal-status
law' for non-Muslims, which would make the Christian churches the final
arbiters of personal-status issues for their congregants.
Drafted by Egypt's three main Christian churches – the Coptic Orthodox,
Catholic and Evangelical churches – in 1978, the proposed law was
rejected by the justice ministry at the time. Twenty years later, in
1998, church representatives again proposed the law – with some minor
amendments – but again failed to obtain ministry approval, even though
Egypt's Al-Azhar gave the law its support.
"Only the churches that sign onto the law will have to follow its
clauses, as is the case with all churches in the world," he said. "Each
church has its own rules for marriage and divorce, along with the
registration of marriages with the state."
In the event that the law is approved, asserted the archbishop, "the
grievances articulated by the '38 Copts' group regarding divorce and
second marriages would be made subject to the law."
Notably, at a 22 August meeting with Christian leaders, Egyptian
President Mohamed Morsi promised to approve the proposed law "soon."
Some 300,000 Greek Christians constitute the Patriarchate of Alexandria
in Egypt. The current primate of the Greek Church of Alexandria is
Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa.