The leader of Roman Catholics in Egypt has spoken of how Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's victory in the presidential elections is a "cause for hope" both for Christians and Muslims in the country.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Adel Zaky, Vicar Apostolic of Alexandria and supreme head of Roman (Latin-rite) Catholic Christians in Egypt, welcomed last Thursday's news of success for the former commander-in-chief of the Egyptian armed forces.
Speaking in Egypt just hours after the result, which gave the former General a landslide of 93 percent of the vote, Bishop Zaky said: "Sisi is the right man at the right time. His victory gives us Christians, security and a perspective for the future. Better times are coming."
Bishop Zaky, a Franciscan with good relations with Copts, who make up the vast majority of Egypt's 10-million Christian community, said: "[Sisi's] election gives all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, cause for hope."
The Franciscan also said that al-Sisi had given no indication whatsoever of religious fanaticism in his public utterances and had also made no distinction between Christians and Muslims. He added: "[Sisi] is a religious person, but he sees religion as a private matter. His prime concern is his country. He demonstrated this when he saved Egypt from an impending civil war last year."
In July 2013 General al-Sisi was at the head of the military which deposed President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood after only one year in office.
Bishop Zaky rejected criticism in the West about the manner of former President Morsi's departure from office. He said: "If General al-Sisi had not been at the head of the military there would have been a civil war. We would have faced the kind of situation that prevails in Iraq. We as a people had no possibility of combating the Muslim Brotherhood. The military only intervened when the people called on it to do so. The army did not act of its own volition."
The bishop said the West had not understood how the army's intervention came at the behest of the people. He said: "Yes, Morsi was elected. But the people saw that under him the country was facing ruin. The people therefore withdrew their confidence to prevent worse things happening."
From a Christian point of view it was not crucial, he continued, for the new President to implement the constitution which had been revised and adopted in a referendum after the fall of Morsi but he went on to point out its strengths. He said: "This is a carefully formulated document. If applied, it will meet the needs of all sections of Egyptian society, be they women, workers, Christians or Muslims."
Bishop Zaky went on to say: "Egypt now needs a firm hand. For three years the country has been descending into chaos. Someone must apply the laws again and must not discriminate between sections of the population."