The Coptic Catholic Bishop of Sohag in southern Egypt, Bishop Youssef Aboul-Kheir, is asking Catholics around the world to visit his country to show support for the local Christian community which is struggling to maintain its faith.

Bishop Aboul-Kheir made his statements while visiting the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need in Germany.  The bishop acknowledged that the missionary work of the Church in Egypt, where Islam is the official religion, is limited in the areas of education and health care.

“Despite our minority status, the Church is respected in society because of her social commitment.  Our service to others is never rejected,” the bishop said, although he lamented that Catholics are not able to freely evangelize.

The Diocese of Sohag has about 12,000 Catholics, 22 priests and 7 seminarians, with two new candidates who may enter the seminary this year.

Asked about ecumenical and interreligious relations in Egypt, the bishop said, “It is not an easy issue, due to the Islamic fundamentalism of the last few years and because the Coptic Orthodox see themselves as the national church of Egypt.”

Bishop Aboul-Kheir thanked Aid to the Church and its benefactors for their financial assistance, but he asked for people to visit his Dioceses in order to encourage the faithful. During the last year Aid to the Church has donated over $180,000 to the Church in Egypt.