Catholics in Egypt are seizing a rare opportunity to build a church in a country where permission normally takes up to 30 years and requires the signature of the president himself.
Outlining the plans, Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Guizeh explained that the church in question was being fast-tracked because it will be the first such structure to be built in a new town close to the 6th October City, a fast-growing metropolis south of the capital, Cairo.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Mina stressed that the plans were still in their infancy but added that the initiative looks set to move ahead quickly because the Egyptian authorities make exceptions for church structures proposed for new urban areas.
He said the government had allocated a 3,200 square foot plot of land on which to build both the church and a school.
Emphasizing a huge influx of people to the area around 6th October City – especially the young – Bishop Mina said, “Our people are very strong in their faith and they keep saying they want a church.”
The bishop added, “It will be very easy for this church to be built. It is because the government follows the line that in every new urban area there should be a church.”
Bishop Mina is turning to ACN for help with the project.
The project is estimated at $380,000 and in due course the bishop will present ACN with a formal request help with the initiative which will be co-financed by a number of different agencies.
The bishop said he will have more details on costs after receiving a structural engineer’s report, expected soon.
The project’s swift progress is in marked contrast to the normal procedure in Egypt, where church building is problematic.
Obtaining approval can take decades and requires the personal authorization of the president.
Bishop Mina is also turning to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for help with plans for two pastoral centers, one for a parish in Guizeh city itself and another in a nearby village.
The charity has also supported the diocese with kindergartens, small schools, social and pastoral centers and medical dispensaries.
The bishop thanked ACN for its ongoing help in his diocese, which includes sponsorship of annual summer camps for children receiving Christian education during the school holidays.
Bishop Mina went on: “I assure the prayers of my people for the benefactors and other friends of Aid to the Church in Need.”
“ACN’s warm spirit of generosity I will take back with me to Egypt to share with my people.”
The diocese has five major seminarians, a comparatively high number for such a small diocese which numbers less than 6,000 Catholics and which was only created in 2003.
Ever since the diocese was established, the charity has given key support for Guizeh, whose name is well known because the pyramids are located there.
Bishop Mina’s diocese is part of the Coptic Catholic Church, which numbers 250,000 in a country where the majority Christian denomination – the Coptic Orthodox Church – has between eight and 10 million faithful.
Across the country, ACN has given ongoing support for projects including training for priests, monks and religious Sisters, as well as Christian education and formation including ACN’s Child’s Bible.