FILE - Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark
CAIRO – 25 October 2018: Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said that the Egyptian leadership is concerned with restoring the ownership of Deir al-Sultan Monastery in Jerusalem to the Coptic Orthodox Church, considering it an Egyptian national issue, not an ecclesiastical problem.
Israeli police forces assaulted Egyptian monks affiliated to the Coptic Orthodox Church on Wednesday, Oct. 24 in Jerusalem as they were protesting in front of the monastery, which is part of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv have held several meetings to discuss ways of restoring the monastery's ownership, Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of Alexandria said on Wednesday, during his weekly sermon from the Cathedral of Archangel Michael.
Pope Tawadros II said that the problem of Deir al-Sultan existed since 1820, pointing out that there were attempts to seize the monastery. He added that the Coptic Orthodox Church resorted to judiciary regarding the ownership of the monastery, affirming that the verdict was in favor of the Orthodox Church.
The pope said that the monastery has been occupied since 1970, adding that the political situation in Jerusalem at the time was exploited, and subsequently, a group of monks from Ethiopia occupied the monastery since then.
He said that a committee was set up to meet the patriarch of the Ethiopian Church in 2016, explaining that the Egyptian side negotiated to submit related documents. However, no answer was received from the Ethiopian side.
Pope Tawadros II said that over the last 50 years, judicial efforts have been exerted to prove the Orthodox Church's ownership of the monastery, affirming that the verdicts were all in favor of the church.
In 2017, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem called for resolving the problem of Deir al-Sultan, he added.
Pope Tawadros II said that a meeting was held with members of the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Ethiopian Embassy and Israel's minister of religious services, adding that the dialogue was biased, and was always in favor of the other side.
He added that the Orthodox Church affirmed its right to renovate the monastery, calling on the UNESCO to supervise the renovation, but the request was not considered.
On October 10, a verbal message was sent by Israel's religious services minister to the bishop of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, quoting the Israeli prime minister concerning a decision to renovate Deir al-Sultan. "We are telling you; we are not asking for your permission," the Israeli side said.
The monks were protesting on Wednesday because the Israeli government banned them from renovating the church. On the other hand, the municipality has been restoring a chapel on the monastery's roof affiliated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church without the approval of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
“The police besieged the monks while protesting. They hit and pushed them, and arrested one of them. They forcibly dragged them away and let municipality workers enter the church to do the renovation,” an eye witness said.
An assembly for the Coptic Orthodox Church in North America condemned the way the monks of Jerusalem's church were treated.
In a press release, the bishops of North America said they deplored the illegal arrest of a monk at the monastery, and that the monks were using their legitimate right to peacefully protest against the illegal seizure of Deir al-Sultan.