A delegation of Australian bishops has visited Egypt to offer solidarity to suffering Coptic Christians and to build ecumenical ties with them and Muslims, reports the Archdiocese of Hobart.
Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous travelled to the region with a delegation of bishops and priests from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of Australia and New Zealand including Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Melkite Bishop Robert Rabbat, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anba Daniel, Armenian Catholic priest Msgr Basil Sousanieh and Armenian Bishop Haigazoun Najarian.
The visit, on May 31-June 3, followed the May 26 attack on a bus carrying Coptic pilgrims to the monastery of St Samuel the Confessor.
The delegation met with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, the Great Imam of Al-Azar Al Sharif, President of Egypt Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi; prayed with Christians mourning the loss of loved ones at the sites of the bombings; and visited survivors in hospital and prayed with them.
Archbishop Porteous said the delegation went to Egypt on a “mission of peace”, to offer condolences to them in their sufferings, to reassure them of our prayers, and “to encourage them with our gratefulness for their witness to Christ”.
He addressed those Coptic Christians who have suffered in the recent attacks.
“We come as ambassadors of peace. We admire your spirit. You do not retaliate but pray for your persecutors. You bless rather than curse. You forgive rather than hate,” Archbishop Porteous said.
“This is a most inspiring attitude that humbles us. You truly embrace the teaching of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and are his true disciples,” he said.
Maronite priest Fr Elie Nakhoul, who was also travelling with the delegation, addressed the Great Imam and the Council of Muslim Sages of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif. Al-Azhar Al-Sharif is both a mosque and university.
Fr Nakhoul spoke of the common enemy of Christians and Muslims: the devil.
“Our battle is not with flesh and blood; it is a battle with misguided and misguiding minds, and with the doctrine expressed in the name of God that is in line with people’s goals, rather than being an honest explanation of God’s will in His creation,” he said.