A Coptic Orthodox Church delegation is to visit Jerusalem on Tuesday in response to an invitation from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to discuss the renovation of Deir El Sultan monastery in the Old City.
Spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, Boulos Halim, told al-Masry al-Youm that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church cannot renovate the monastery without the approval of the Coptic Church.
The two church denominations have been contesting ownership of the monastery since 1967. According to the website of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, the Egyptian claim to the monastery dates back to the reign of the Muslim Sultan Al Mo-ez (1033-1054).
The group say Egyptian delegates used to transport the Gezia money (Islamic taxes) collected from the Copts of Egypt to the Muslim Caliphate in Baghdad.
A tale is told that once, the delegate was attacked by thieves and hid the Gezia money in the Coptic Patriarchate. Sultan Al Mo-ez thereafter granted Deir-El-Sultan to the Coptic families for their loyalty, and as a rest house for his delegates on the long road to Iraq.
Deir El Sultan monastery is nestled on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre within the ruins of the Martyrium Church, occupying 1800sq.m of space.
According to the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, after the six days war in 1967 Israel seized the monastery and expelled the Egyptian monks, handing it over to the Ethiopians . The Coptic Church resorted to the Israeli court which ruled that the monastery should be returned to the Egyptian church, but no ruling has been enforced.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm