Denis & Claudine POINAS
Last December, Denis & Claudine POINAS made a long trip to Lower and Middle Egypt at a delicate moment for their family life. They share with us their non-stop journey…
Wednesday 8 December
As soon as we landed in Cairo, we were welcomed at the home of Karim and Nermine, leaders of the Chemin Neuf Community along with Ramy and Soheir, leaders of CANA in Egypt, for a very elegant and copious meal. With Ramy and Soheir, it was the first time that we visited the brothers in their home. A fraternal time if ever there was one.
Thursday 9 December
9h. Meeting in Cairo with Bishop Claudio LURATI with Karim and Nermine. Although his title is “Vicar Apostolic of Alexandria”, he is the bishop of the Roman Catholics in Egypt, based in Cairo. He succeeded Adel ZAKI. We received a very warm welcome from this young (60 years old) Italian bishop of Como. A Comboni Missionary, he has lived for a long time in Kenya and South Sudan and speaks French very well. He is in contact with the many Catholic congregations in Egypt, but he did not know CANA or even the Community.
So we introduced him to CANA and in particular CANA Welcome. He is very aware of the situation of Egyptian couples and families who are very busy and do not take time for their couple. We asked him for his support and we would like the Community and CANA to keep in regular contact with him.
11h. Visit of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization which has just opened its doors and welcomed 22 royal mummies initially exhibited in the Cairo Museum, Tahir Square.
14h. A very moving visit to the Catholic cemetery in Cairo where our sister Geneviève and our brother Joseph are buried. This visit was very important to us. We were very happy to discover that this grave is regularly flowered. During a community week, Geneviève, a French consecrated sister, and Joseph, a young Lebanese priest, drowned trying to help a young child who was drowning. The history of the Community is marked by this event.
15h. Meals and preparation for the Community weekend with Karim and Nermine at their home.
17h. Meeting of the leaders of the CANA fraternity at the Coptic Catholic parish of Ramy and Soheir. Review of the beginning of the year with concrete questions about the leadership and activities of the fraternities.
19h. Mass on 8 December. A fervent and numerous but not very young ceremony…
20h. Meeting with the Coptic Catholic parish priest and the two vicars. Exchanges on CANA Welcome. Very good reception and good comments.
The parish priest and one of his vicars are married and talk about the need for priests to take time out as a couple to recharge their batteries. We tell about the experiences in Ukraine with CANA for priests with their wives. Married Coptic priests in Egypt have been talking about this need for quite some time already. We tell them that, if a dozen priest couples were willing, we could envisage a CANA Week for Coptic priests and their wives.
22h. Meals in the restaurant
00h30. Departure by train to Assiut, in middle Egypt, with Ramy and Soheir. 600 km by night train…
Friday 10 December
7h. Welcome by Ehab and visit of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary where Jesus and his parents would have lived before returning to Nazareth. This monastery is a very large pilgrimage centre. Florine, if you want pictures, the website IS easy to find
10h. Meeting of the 11 couples of the CANA fraternities of Upper Egypt, that of Assiut and that of Sohag, at the Coptic Catholic parish of St Francis and St Theresa of Lisieux.
This day in Assiut was the moment awaited by Ramy and Soheir to take stock and see how to continue the CANA mission in Upper Egypt. Indeed, at the launch of the year in October, the couples said they had difficulty in meeting regularly in fraternity. It was decided that the couples should meet two or three days a year, whereas it is really desirable that the couples meet more often…
We had a good time of worship and listened to what everyone had to say as a large group. Then our teaching focused on the links between CANA and the synodal process initiated by Pope Francis in view of the synod on synodality in October 2023.
As we enter the church to participate in the Coptic Catholic mass, we discover a small exhibition explaining the desecration of the place by extremists in August 2013 (fire, broken statues etc…). We measure once again the suffering of the Christians in this Egyptian land.
We very much appreciated the beautiful homily of the parish priest which complemented our teaching very well. We went to thank him for his welcome.
Then we resumed the exchanges, after a snack, and gave a short presentation recalling the seven points of commitment in the CANA Fraternity, insisting in particular on the grace of fraternal life. The exchanges that followed were magnificent. We are happy to discover that some couples we have known since 2017 have grown up, are more expressive, etc. And, without our asking anything, the couples decided to respect the CANA charter and to meet in fraternity every month.
We ended the meeting by asking each couple to choose fraternal life again.
20h. Launch of the first CANA Welcome evening at the Coptic Catholic parish of St Anthony the Great in the presence of the parish priest, who is also married. A very good time with 5 new couples. The CANA couple responsible for the course took good care of the group and at the end of the meeting the parish priest expressed his support for the course and thanked us very warmly for coming.
22h. Meal in the restaurant with a prayer request from a couple, in a somewhat discreet corner.
What a day! Almost 24 hours of non-stop mission.
Return to Lower Egypt
Saturday 11 December
00h30. Our night train leaves for Cairo!
7h. Back to our room in La Salle to sleep, recuperate and be tested for COVID so we can return to Europe.
12h. Christmas show at La Salle school in the presence of the French ambassador, then off with Karim and Nermine to continue preparations for the community weekend. We receive a message from France informing us that the mum of Denis is leaving for the Father.
17h. Meeting with the CANA core group at the Maronite parish.
We address the issue of CANA Welcome. It appears that this mission has been difficult to follow since 2020, probably because of COVID, and that the relaunch each year is complicated. It would probably be necessary in the 3 places, i.e., Cairo, Alexandria and Assiut, that a couple becomes the CANA Welcome referent. The development of CANA in Egypt would benefit greatly from this.
20h. Warm, lively prayer group with 25 people. Denis gives a short teaching.
22h. They bring us our Covid test results – both negative, phew – as we would not have been able to leave Egypt the next day.
Back to our accommodation in LaSalle for a few hours of rest. Too bad they forgot to keep a lunch tray for us!
Return to France and review
Sunday 12 December
We left for the airport with Karim at 4am and arrived in Lyon at 12.30pm to be with Denis’ mother, who was dying but waiting for us to leave.
Looking back on this mission, we can say:
- That it was important for us to go to Egypt at this time of the year both for CANA and for the Community. It is important that the regular visits continue especially with the pandemic.
- That the meetings of the Latin bishop and the parishes in Cairo and Assiut were important and hopefully fruitful.
- How remarkable is the finesse and discernment of certain persons.
- That we have to listen to the needs of Coptic priests who need time for their couples.
- That given the health of Denis’ mother, we took a real risk but that the Lord was faithful and allowed us to return in time to live the last 12 hours of her 98 years of life.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit for his help and discernment.