Q: How might the church’s political role change with the new pope?
In interviews after his selection, the new pope spoke of the church focusing on spiritual work. But Samia Sidhom, an editor at the Coptic newspaper Watani, says that until Christians are equal citizens in Egypt, it will be hard for the pope to remain apolitical. And indeed, in the days after he was chosen as the 118th leader of the church, he spoke out strongly on Egypt’s new constitution. Many secular and liberal Egyptians have complained that Islamists have controlled the drafting of the constitution and are using it to increase the influence of Islam on the state.
“A constitution that hints at imposing a religious state in Egypt is absolutely rejected,” the new pope said.
Q: How might the fate of Egypt’s Christians affect the region?
In the year after the revolution, attacks on Christians and churches rose sharply, though sectarian incidents had been rising during the last years of Mubarak’s reign. Churches were burned, clashes broke out, and last October, the Army attacked a mostly Christian protest, leaving more than two dozen people dead.