Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 20:27 pm (KSA) 17:27 pm (GMT)

Coptic pope treated badly at London airport

Pope Shenouda (C) on a 2004 visit to the UK (File)
Pope Shenouda (C) on a 2004 visit to the UK (File)

Cairo has protested the treatment of Coptic Pope Shenouda III at London's Heathrow airport, after he was threatened with a body search and subjected to security screening.

Last Sunday, the Pope was returning to Egypt after inaugurating a number of churches in the UK.

As he was about to enter the VIP lounge accompanied by the Egyptian ambassador in London, airport security staff at Heathrow insisted on body searching the religious leader.

After a long argument, they gave up the body search, but insisted on having him pass through a metal detector.

The Pope's advisor, Dr. Naguib Gebrael, said the treatment violated international protocol and called it a flagrant affront to the Pope's position as the world leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

In a written statement, Gebrael asked if a similar procedure would apply to the Vatican's Pope Benedict XVI or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Gebrael added that the incident might be a settling of political scores.

Pope Shenouda is an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. He is known for his anti-Israeli views and his support of the Palestinian cause, and has banned Egyptian Christians from making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem as long as it is under Israeli rule.

Gebrael has asked Egypt's foreign ministry to intervene and demanded an explanation from its British counterpart.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

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