In a message to President Mohamed Hosni Moubarak of the Arab Republic of Egypt dated December 19, 2002, His Holiness, Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Egypt, expressed “great joy” at the announcement that Christmas had been proclaimed a national holiday in the predominantly Muslim country.
A copy of the message was received by the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America here.
The text of Patriarch Petros’ message reads as follows:
“Your Excellency: It is with great joy that we heard Your announcement proclaiming Christmas as a national holiday of Egypt, where God has appointed you as the leader of this God-blessed nation.
“The Arab Republic of Egypt is an example of harmony between Muslims and Christians. Your Excellency always works at building a land without violence, a nation that loves life, and grows in justice and solidarity. For these reasons and many more, Egypt is a model country and an example for others to follow.
“We take this opportunity to express once again our gratefulness and appreciation for the protection and assistance that our Patriarchate and the members of the Greek Orthodox Church receive from the civil authorities of Egypt.
“May the Almighty God grant health and strength to Your Excellency and peace and prosperity to the beloved people of the Arab Republic of Egypt.”
According to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director, there has been a Christian presence in Egypt since apostolic times.
“Alexandria was well established as an influential hub of Christianity by the end of the second century, and it is well known that in the third and four centuries monasticism emerged from communities of hermits in the Egyptian desert,” Father Matusiak said. “The country was thoroughly arabized in the mid-seventh century, with much of the population accepting Islam, the nation’s dominant faith to this day.”
It is estimated that today some ten percent of the population is Christian.