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The state-owned magazine "Hal talam" has decided to withdraw a controversial cover that the Coptic Orthodox Church considers offensive


one day after the National Press Authority referred its editor-in-chief for investigation regarding the cover. The new cover does not include an image that accompanied one of the main cover stories, which shows a picture of Bishop Raphael, the general bishop of the churches in central Cairo, under the title "Sacred Ignorance: Bishops Defy the Coronavirus Against the Pope," referring to the controversy surrounding the celebration of Holy Communion during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The church expressed its anger at the original cover, which featured images of its prominent bishops alongside a picture of Mohamed Badie, the general guide of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, who is currently serving multiple prison sentences totaling 85 years on charges of involvement in several violent and terrorist crimes. 

This move comes one day after the authority's decision to suspend the journalist responsible for Coptic affairs at the magazine pending investigation. The authority stated that it will offer an official apology to the church, and the magazine will issue an apology for the "offense" in the next issue in light of the good relations between the church, the authority, and the media in the country.

The church's statement came hours after strong criticism from the Coptic Orthodox Church against what it described as an "attack" by the state-owned magazine against the church and one of its priests. The cover primarily criticizes the alleged Holy Communion, which involves placing bread in the mouths of worshipers and sharing wine with a communal spoon, by some bishops and priests despite the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the magazine, a number of bishops, including Bishop Raphael, continued to practice this ritual despite statements by Pope Tawadros II regarding the possibility of canceling this form of communion during Mass to prevent the spread of the virus. With regard to Rose al-Youssef's article, the church said, "We do not consider this freedom of expression. This is a serious violation that should not go unpunished. Such irresponsible acts harm the social peace that requires cooperation under the current circumstances." The church added that it has the right to sue the magazine legally.

The spread of the coronavirus has led to the suspension of collective religious activities in the country, as mosques, Islamic churches, and Coptic churches have remained closed for nearly three months due to the pandemic. Last month, the Coptic Orthodox Church decided to extend the suspension of prayers and activities in its churches until June 27 due to the spread of the coronavirus. The church decided to extend the suspension of prayers while holding collective celebrations with limited attendance of six monks and deacons.

 The church stated that this decision comes "due to the continued daily increase in infections towards an unknown peak," adding that the committee headed by the Pope will meet again on June 27 to reassess the situation. Egypt suspended congregational prayers in mosques and closed churches in March in an effort to contain the spread of the pandemic in the densely populated country. However, Egypt will review the reopening of places of worship in July in provinces with fewer cases of coronavirus, with preventive and precautionary measures in place, as part of a gradual reopening approach.

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