Assertive but calm, the 60-year-old pope took issue in the AP interview with references to Egypt’s Christians as a minority, underlining that the community — which is believed to make up about 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people — must be seen as having an equal voice with the Muslim majority.
‘‘We are a part of the soil of this nation and an extension of the pharaohs and their age before Christ. Yes, we are a minority in the numerical sense, but we are not a minority when it comes to value, history, interaction and love for our nation,’’ he said.
The patriarch also criticized the country’s new constitution, which Morsi’s Islamist allies rammed through to approval in December, angering opponents who said the move reflected the determination of the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies to impose their way without building consensus.
The document allows for a far stricter implementation of Islamic Shariah law than in the past, raising opponents’ fears that it could bring restrictions on many civil liberties and the rights of women and Christians.
‘‘The only common bond between all Egyptians is that they are all citizens ... the constitution, the base for all laws, must be under the umbrella of citizenship and not a religious one,’’ he said. ‘‘Subsequently, some clauses were distorted by a religious slant and that in itself is discrimination because the constitution is supposed to unite and not divide.
Morsi has repeatedly pledged the dialogue will identify the disputed clauses and agree on amendments. But many doubt this will happen, given his fellow Islamists’ resolve to protect the document in its current form.
Tawadros said he hopes for changes after the next parliamentary and presidential elections due respectively around April and in 2016.
‘‘Maybe the constitution will change with the next parliamentary and presidential elections. Or maybe it will temporarily stay unchanged and be amended later,’’ he said.
Even under Mubarak’s rule, Christians complained of widespread official discrimination and said police failed to move against those accused in attacks on Christians or on churches.
Egypt has seen a string of such attacks, before and after Mubarak’s fall — sometimes the result of local feuds that take on a sectarian nature, sometimes outright sectarian attacks. In the past two years, hardline Islamists have also become more open in their anti-Christian rhetoric.
Speaking to the AP, Tawadros borrowed a leaf from his own monastic past to counsel Egypt’s Christians.
‘‘Keep the hope, work earnestly and lift your heart with prayers that could make miracles.’’