Egypt's Coptic pope criticises Morsi over cathedral attacks

Ahram Online , Tuesday 9 Apr 2013

Pope Tawadros II condemned recent sectarian violence and demanded action on the ground instead of more 'formations and committees'

Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II (Photo: Reuters)

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II criticised President Morsi’s handling of recent sectarian violence which has left several Egyptians dead in the last 4 days.

In an interview on private television channel ONtv on Tuesday morning, the head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church described the violent incidents at Saint Mark’s Cathedral on Sunday as a “chaotic and flagrant assault.”

Pope Tawadros said that he had previously spoken on the phone with the president, who had promised that he would do everything possible to protect the Cairo cathedral, the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Church, but “on the ground, we did not find this.”

“This comes under dereliction of duty and mis-assessment, which is the responsibility of the security apparatus,” he added.

Two people were killed and at least 90 injured on Sunday when unknown assailants attacked mourners outside the cathedral in Cairo where a funeral service was being held for four Copts killed on Saturday in sectarian violence in Qalioubiya, north of Cairo.

Police fired teargas over the cathedral walls and reportedly stood by as unknown assailants armed with birdshot, knives and petrol bombs attacked those inside the cathedral’s grounds.

"The law should be upheld promptly. Society is falling apart," Pope Tawadros II said in his televised comments.

The head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, who was enthroned in November 2012, said that attacks on the cathedral have gone beyond all limits and have tarnished Egypt's image abroad.

"The vast majority of Egyptians - Muslims and Christians – are coherent," he said. "There is a minority trying to disturb society," which he said are known to Egyptian officials.

The pope also lambasted the government's handling of the crisis. "We have had enough of formations, committees, groups and whatever we call them. We need actions, not words. We need to see something on the ground."

In another interview with the private Saint Mark’s channel, the pope described the recent sectarian incidents as “painful, exhausting and unusual."

The pope also cast suspicions about the attacks that he said were the first of their kind in the 2000-year history of the church.

"The failure that we saw [in handling the violence] is humiliating to Egypt," he added. "My heart is aching because of the bloodshed and the state of unrest in the Egyptian street."

The pope expressed gratitude for the support he has received from President Morsi, the government and Muslims at large. Nevertheless, he stressed that "feelings are not enough in such matters," calling for a more satisfactory and decisive remedy to handle the crisis.

The pope, who is currently in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, said he has been in touch with the church, the presidency, and Al-Azhar’s Grand Sheikh in order to follow up on the situation.

Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have long complained of discrimination in the predominantly Muslim country.

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