UNCLAS CAIRO 002722
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI KIRF PGOV PREL EG VC
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN REACTION TO DEATH OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.
Â¶1. (SBU) Summary: The GOE, Egyptian religious leaders, and
the Egyptian media have joined the worldwide outpouring of
condolences and respect on the occasion of the death of Pope
John Paul II. Although the Roman Catholic population of
Egypt is relatively small (about 350,000 from a total
Egyptian Christian population of nearly 8 million), the
Egyptian response is an indication of the late Pope's stature
in Egypt (especially on the issue of the Arab/Palestinian
"cause") as well as the GOE's desire to signal its engagement
on this issue. End summary.
Â¶2. (U) The Presidency announced that Minister of Culture
Farouk Hosny will lead the official GOE delegation to the
funeral on Friday. The GOE also announced a three day
mourning period and issued a statement noting that President
Mubarak mourned the loss of the Pope who had "served as a
symbol of love and peace, a preacher of dialogue among
religions and civilizations, and a supporter of the values of
righteousness and justice, including Arab and Palestinian
causes." Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa also plans
to attend the funeral.
Â¶3. (U) Egyptian religious leaders have also expressed their
respects. Sheikh of Al-Azhar Sayyed Tantawi described the
Pope's passing as a loss for the Church and the Islamic
world. Tantawi's words echoed Mubarak's as he lauded John
Paul II's support for righteousness and peace and expressed
appreciation for the Pope's support for Arab causes in
Palestine and Iraq. Minister of Religious Endowments (Awqaf)
Hamdy Zaqzug called on the Pope's successor to follow in John
Paul II's footsteps and continue his contributions to peace.
Finally, Dar al-Ifta'a, the official body responsible for the
issuance of Islamic legal opinions, issued a statement
recognizing the Pope's efforts for peace and justice and his
support of Arab causes, "especially the Palestinian cause."
Â¶4. (SBU) His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, spiritual leader
to Egypt's seven million strong Coptic Orthodox community,
praised John Paul II's "noble attributes" and his "great
contribution to ecumenical work." Comment: Shenouda, who is
in his early eighties, appears to be in good health for a man
of his age, but the passing of John Paul II is a reminder
that the Coptic Orthodox Church will likely face its own
succession process in a relatively short time. End comment.
Â¶5. (U) On April 5, the Charge, along with numerous other
members of the diplomatic corps and Egyptian governmental and
non-governmental luminaries, visited the Papal Nuncio to sign
the condolence book.
Â¶6. (SBU) The Egyptian media devoted extensive, factual
coverage to the story of the Pope's death. Editorial
coverage for the most part was laudatory and
non-controversial, though a writer in opposition newspaper
Al-Wafd sounded a discordant note when he asserted that John
Paul II's "wooing" of Jews and Israel was unsuccessful due to
the late Pope's "support for Arab causes."
Visit Embassy Cairo's Classified Website:
You can also access this site through the
State Department's Classified SIPRNET website.