Pope Benedict XV (Photo: Rueters)
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has asked its Ambassador to the Vatican to return to Egypt "for discussion," said an official.
Hossam Zaki, the official spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said that the decision came after Pope Benedict XVI's statements regarding the New Year's Eve bombings in the Two Saints Church in Alexandria. According to Zaki, the Pope’s words were seen as an “unacceptable interference" in Egypt's affairs.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, had sent a letter to his counterpart in the Vatican, in which he discussed the Vatican's statements regarding the status of Copts in Egypt and the relations between Muslims and Copts. In the letter, Abul Gheit stressed Egypt’s rejection of any efforts made in the name of protecting the interests of Christians in the Middle East.
Abul Gheit also wrote about Egypt's need to prevent escalations in religious tensions and requested the Vatican do the same, asking that they not interfere in Egyptian matters through their statements and that they stop discussing the matter with other European countries.
Zaki also insisted that the Coptic problem is a matter of Egypt’s domestic affairs, in which outsiders should not meddle.
Following the attack on the church in Alexandria, the Pope said in his New Year's Day mass “that in the wake of mounting tensions – especially discrimination, abuse and religious intolerance which are today striking Christians in particular – I once again launch a pressing appeal not to give in to discouragement and resignation.”
On 11 January, during the Pope's annual ‘State of the
World' address, he again voiced concerns over the attacks against Christians in the Middle East and called for religious tolerance in Egypt.
''Looking to the East, the attacks which brought death, grief and dismay among the Christians of Iraq, even to the point of inducing them to leave the land where their families have lived for centuries, has troubled us deeply,” the Pope said. “To the authorities of that country and to the Muslim religious leaders, I renew my heartfelt appeal that their Christian fellow-citizens be able to live in security, continuing to contribute to the society in which they are full members."