JAFFA, Israel – Christian Egyptians have castigated the Coptic Pope Tawadros for removing Christian-themed ornaments before meeting with Saudi King Salman, who is on a landmark visit to Cairo.
Under the hashtag #where_is_your_cross_your_grace, social media users have expressed their dismay at what they saw as an excessive gesture on the pope’s part, and posted pictures of him meeting with other foreign dignitaries in full gear.
Fadi Youssef, the founder of Egypt’s Coptic Coalition, wrote: “I love His Grace Pope Tawadros, and he knows it, but his meeting with the king without the cross he carries everywhere is unacceptable to me and, I believe, many Copts.”
“The cross is a great source of pride for all Christians, and I hope the Pope will take my words kindly and with love,” he added. “I’m sure he knows I don’t normally criticize in vain – it’s just my take on that incident in which he was without the cross.”
The Christian journalist Raymond Francis wrote: “I have no other source of pride except the cross of Jesus Christ our savior.”
Activist Mina Manssy opted for sarcasm: “The picture of the Pope is photoshopped. No, in fact it wasn’t, they just made him leave the cross outside for security reasons. Is it because he hides explosives in it? No, of course not. They feared he’d use it as a blunt instrument and smack King Salman on his head. Why were they afraid of the cross and not the wooden cane he was carrying?
After all, just one strike with it and the King’s head would be hoisted all the way back to Saudi Arabia.”
Nabil Gabriel lamented the mixing of politics and religion.
“The Pope’s visit to the Four Seasons Hotel without the cross is political,” he wrote. “It only attests to the fact that his entourage, which is submissive to the regime, has got to him. The previous Pope, Shnouda, wouldn’t do it. Whenever he confronted the regime, he would turn to the sky in prayer first.”
“In evidence of the freedom of religion [President] Sisi is on about, the King went to meet the Sheikh of Al Azhar in his office, while the Pope, who receives world leaders in his cathedral, put aside his cross and went to the Four Seasons Hotel to meet the king of Wahhabism,” he added.
Imad Thomas, another Coptic activist, wrote: “Pope, where is your cross? Have you given it up?”