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Nov 28, 11:08 AM EST

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox leader makes rare Israeli visit

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AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean

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JERUSALEM (AP) -- The leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church is making a rare visit to Israel to attend the funeral of a senior Coptic official in Jerusalem.

Pope Tawadros II broke a ban on pilgrimages to take part in Saturday's funeral at a church at the Holy Sepulcher compound, where the Coptic church has maintained a presence since early Christianity.

The travel ban to Israel was imposed by Tawadros's predecessor, the late Shenouda III, who opposed the normalization of ties between Egypt and Israel.

A 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty ended hostilities between the two neighbors. But anti-Israel sentiments still run high in Egypt and many there have accused Tawadros of betrayal.

Tawadros insisted he was not making an official visit and was merely there to "bid farewell to a very important person."

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