The Pope of Hope: Egypt’s Tawadros II on status of Copts, regional politics and Saudi reforms


Faisal J. Abbas
December 04, 2018

Tawadros spoke about the damage inflicted on the Copts in Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule from 2012 to 2013
Tawadros is looking forward to visiting Saudi Arabia soon at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

CAIRO: It was July 21, 1969, and Neil Armstrong had just taken mankind’s first steps on the moon. In Egypt, 16-year-old Wagih Subhi Baqi Sulayman was transfixed by the achievement. More in hope than in any expectation of a reply, he wrote to the US astronaut asking for an autograph.

A few weeks later, to the young man’s surprise, an envelope arrived containing a signed, color photo of the moon landing.

Nearly 50 years later, while the hair is a little more gray, Wagih’s eyes remain very much on celestial matters. Of course, nobody refers to him by his birth name these days. For more than 100 million Egyptians, and to the rest of the world, he is now known as Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of St. Mark and leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

He has, sadly, lost the moon landing photo — but never the memory of those days. With a soft voice and a gentle smile that lasted throughout our interview at St Mark’s Cathedral in the Abbassia district of Cairo, he recalled obtaining Armstrong’s address from a radio program on Voice of America that encouraged pen pals to write to him.

So when will Pope Tawadros visit the Kingdom? “There is no specific time for the visit, but it will take place when God wishes,” he says.


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