(Provincial of Franciscan Order of Minor Brothers,
I wish to briefly speak about the presence of religious Brothers and Sisters in Egypt.
It is not necessary to recall that monasticism began in Egypt evolving from the hermitic form to the anachoratic one right up to the cenobitic one.
And cenobitic life, regulated by Saint Pacomius, then passed to Syria and Palestine, giving origin to Basilian monasticism, source of the Latin one, spread in its various forms throughout the world.
But let-s go back to Egypt. Here monasticism has always been the centre of life of the Church, it supported Christians in their faith, encouraged them in persecutions.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Coptic Church has not any form of monastic life within, although some attempts are under way today.
Instead Orders and Congregations are immersed in Egypt.
Only two female congregations are Egyptians and Coptic, but the Province of the Order of Minor Brothers, who has been involved for centuries in taking care of the poorer local populations, has been for many years fully involved in the Coptic Church, living the liturgy and being subject to the laws of the jurisdiction of the Catholic Coptic Hierarchy.
Although remaining officially Latin, the other institutions have also got closer and closer to the spirit and Hierarchy of the Catholic Coptic Church.
The Church in Egypt today must tackle a number of challenges. Many are the ones of all countries represented in this hall, that have to solve huge problems - often by themselves - in order to raise the standard of living of their own populations.
Others are specific. Firstly I recall the ecumenical dialogue to which - as Vatican Council II teaches (OE24) - the Catholic Coptic Church is particularly called to together with other Catholic Oriental Churches.
Nor can one keep quiet about the difficulties that have arisen due to the recent rising Islamic fundamentalism.
Everything is carried out in an open humble and silent service without distinction (between Christian and Muslim ? Catholic and orthodox) because they are aware that religious life "is a divine gift that the Church has received from the Lord" "a sign that can and must effectively attract all members of the Church to enthusiastically carry out the duties of Christian vocation" (LG 43 and 44).
Original text: Italian