Skip to main content

Egyptian Copts test pilgrim ban to Jerusalem

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church has maintained a ban on Copts visiting holy sites in Israel and Palestine since 1978, but some are debating its merit.
A Coptic Christian priest holds candles next to a picture of Egyptian Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City March 18, 2012. Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of most of Egypt's estimated 12 million Christians, died on Saturday from old age, his political adviser told Reuters. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION OBITUARY) - RTR2ZJJF

CAIRO — Inside a stuffy office just off Tahrir Square, hotel manager Nemr Lotfy, a Coptic Christian, remembers his pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

"It was always one of my greatest hopes to go inside the tomb of Jesus Christ," he smiles, talking at length about the Garden of Gethsemane, the Old City and the Holy Sepulchre. "It was always a dream for me, to live it — not just to see it." To do that, Lotfy had to disobey a decades-old church order banning Copts from visiting Jerusalem. "I want to go again and again, but we must respect the order of our pope."

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.