Friday, November 27, 2015

Two Popes Impact Delicate International Decisions

Pope Francis yesterday spoke in Narobi, Kenya to a group of  United Nations officials (full text of speech) urging action at two upcoming international conferences. Focusing on COP21, the meeting beginning Nov. 30 in Paris on climate change, the Pope said in part:
In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues.  It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects....
I express my hope that COP21 will achieve a global and “transformational” agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.
The Pope also spoke about the upcoming 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization scheduled to meet in Narobi in a few days:
It is my hope that the deliberations of the forthcoming Nairobi Conference will not be a simple balancing of conflicting interests, but a genuine service to care of our common home and the integral development of persons, especially those in greatest need.  I would especially like to echo the concern of all those groups engaged in projects of development and health care – including those religious congregations which serve the poor and those most excluded – with regard to agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care.  Regional free trade treaties dealing with the protection of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, should not only maintain intact the powers already granted to States by multilateral agreements, but should also be a means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all.
Meanwhile, Israeli and Arab sources differ on the political importance of a gesture by Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II who yesterday left with a delegation of bishops for Jerusalem to take part in the funeral of Archbishop Anba Abraham, the Archbishop of Jerusalem.  This is the first visit of a Coptic pope to Jerusalem since 1832.  In 1979, the previous Coptic Pope barred Copts from traveling to Jerusalem, insisting they will only enter together with Muslims. The Jerusalem Post speculates that Tawadros' trip will make it increasingly difficult to maintain the ban on other Copts making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt said that Tawadros probably got approval from Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who is maintaining close intelligence ties with Israel in the fight against ISIL in Sinai.

However, Gulf News quotes a Coptic Church spokesman who said that Tawadros' visit to Jerusalem, which the Church considers occupied territory, does not change the Church's position:
The Pope’s visit came as an exception. It is for offering condolences and nothing more.  Pope Tawadros II will not make any visits in the Holy Land, and he will return to Cairo immediately following the funeral prayers. Copts will only go to Jerusalem with their Muslim brethren.