Coptic Pope Shenouda III has declined to attend official celebrations in Ismailia marking the anniversary of Egypt's 6 October victory in the 1973 war with Israel due to "health concerns," according to a papal secretary.
The secretary added that Shenouda was continuing to carry out his usual administrative duties and would deliver his weekly sermon next Wednesday as scheduled before traveling to the coastal city of Alexandria on Friday to deliver two lectures.
Church officials have also denied that the pope had begun a period of voluntary seclusion within the papal residence.
On Sunday, the pope raised eyebrows after failing to deliver a scheduled bi-monthly sermon in Alexandria.
According to an anonymous source at the Alexandria Archbishopric, the pope had called off his sermon in order to "send a message" to both the Alexandria governor and head of security that he had been "offended" by reported plans by Salafi Muslims to stage protests condemning a controversial Coptic bishop.
Last month, Coptic Bishop Bishoy drew angry reactions from Muslim and Christian critics alike after he publicly challenged the authenticity of certain verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
Coptic Church Undersecretary Sergios, however, said the pope had merely postponed his sermon due to prior engagements. “He will deliver his sermon next week,” Sergios said.
In a related development, hundreds of Egyptian Coptic expatriates on Sunday staged protests before the Egyptian consulate in Los Angeles, where they condemned earlier demonstrations by Muslims in Egypt to demand the release of Camillia Shehata, the wife of a Minya priest who was reported to have converted to Islam.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.