Egypt pope warns Copts are scared

Ahram Online , Sunday 28 Apr 2013

Pope Tawadros II says fear is driving many Coptic Christians to emigrate, attack on St Mark's Cathedral was mostly due to 'misunderstanding'

Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church (Photo: Reuters)

Fear and worry has driven many Coptic Christians to leave Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II said in a recorded interview aired on Hayat satellite channel on Saturday.

The emigrants are usually among the most educated and richest in the Christian community and thus Egypt is losing many of its best human assets, the pope added.

The pope stressed his opposition to religious visits by Egyptian Christians to Jerusalem, in abidance with former Pope Shenouda III’s stand against normalisation of ties with Israel.

Regarding the attack on Christians at St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Pope Tawadros said the interior minister had visited the cathedral together with other security officials on 24 April and relations had been reconciled. He added that misjudgements by the security forces during the incident were the main problem.

On 7 April, two people died and at least 90 injured when unknown assailants attacked mourners outside the cathedral in Cairo during a funeral service for four Copts killed 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 pope also said the presidency had rejected statements by presidential aide Essam El-Haddad that Copts had started the cathedral clashes. El-Haddad's statements were directed to the West in an attempt to excuse the failure of state officials, the pope added.

In a statement written in English, El-Haddad, presidential assistant for foreign relations, claimed the cathedral violence had started after Coptic mourners had vandalised cars on Ramses Street and local people had responded by throwing stones and launching firecrackers.

As for claims the cathedral contained weapons, the pope described this as “nonsense.”  

Egypt's military

The pope said the armed forces had played an important role in the transition period and had handed over power as promised. The Maspero massacre was its weak point, he added, but this was due to its "inexperience."

On 9 October 2011, at least 26 Copts were killed and more than 300 injured during clashes with the army outside the Maspero state television and radio building in Cairo. Protesters had been rallying against the demolition of a church in Aswan. Video footage filmed at Maspero shows military forces running over several protesters with armoured vehicles.

Pope Tawadros II assumed the leadership of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church in November 2012 after the death of Pope Shenouda III.


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