Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi will not attend the ceremony this Sunday that will install the new Coptic pope. Previously Mursi had said that he would attend the ceremony if invited. He was invited.
At one time, during the 4th to 6th centuries A.D., Christianity was the majority religion in Egypt. The present day Copts still represent almost 10% of the Egyptian population and are by far the largest Christian minority in Egypt. Relations are often strained between Copts and the majority Muslims. In particular some Muslim extremist groups have attacked and harassed Copts. The newly chosen Pope Tawadros II has been an advocate for improving relationships with the Muslim majority. Mursi's non-attendance at the upcoming ceremony will be seen as a setback by the Coptic community. The ceremony will be attended by Christian leaders from several countries, and also some Egyptian public figures.
A Coptic church source told Reuters: "We don't know why Mursi will not attend but it is a major event and nothing should stand in the way of him attending ... Christians always had a strong feeling that he does not want to come." Neither Tawadros II's office nor that of Mursi were available for comment.
Although Mursi is from the Muslim Brotherhood, he has often emphasized that he is the president of all Egyptians not just Muslims. Recently, a party to promote inter-faith harmony was raided by radical Islamists. Coptic lawyer Peter el-Naggar said:: "President Mursi's decision not to attend comes as a surrender to pressures that some (ultra-orthodox Islamist) Salafi groups and others put on him. The presidency has previously announced that the president will attend if he got invited, and he was invited."
Tawadros II told Reuters that the new constitution being drafted should be inclusive. On Thursday representatives of Egypt's churches withdrew from the assembly charged with drafting the Egyptian constitution as they objected to some clauses in the draft. A final decision will be made after consultation with the Pope.