By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Montreal, April 17, 2013 – Following attacks on a Christian funeral service in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, representatives of the Catholic Church in Egypt have made serious allegations against the authorities.
Father Rafik Greiche, media spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “When severe inter-religious unrest took place in Khusus on 6 April and four Christians lost their lives, Islamic fundamentalists threatened to attack the church in Khusus if a funeral service for the dead were to be held there. Therefore the service was transferred to the cathedral in Cairo. The police must have been aware of the situation. So why were the police not in front of the cathedral? They only arrived two hours later, and then they protected the attackers.”
On 7 April, at the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, there were attacks on Coptic Christians attending the funeral of their brethren who had died the previous day in Khasus near Cairo. Unknown persons attacked the mourners with stones and Molotov cocktails. Two people were killed and more than 90 injured. Speaking to ACN, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Asyut, Kyrillos Samaan, condemned the assault: “Nobody could have imagined that anybody would attack such an important symbol for all Egyptians as St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. It is shocking. But we will never learn the real motives for these attacks.”
A visible rapprochement
A few hours after the attacks, President Muhammad Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, declared his solidarity in a telephone call with Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II. Father Greiche commented on this: “But what had the President done to protect the Christians?” Encouraging, in the words of Father Greiche, is the solidarity and sympathy of moderate Muslims: “All of our Muslim friends told us that the events make them feel ashamed. I recently visited Azhar University, the most important Sunni institution. Sheiks with whom we are in contact there assured us that such attacks are not compatible with Islam.” Father Greiche continued: “We are in permanent contact with the Protestant and Orthodox Churches. We find much agreement. That is a blessing.”
Especially significant, in the view of Father Greiche, is the rapprochement between the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches since the election of Tawadros II as the new Coptic Orthodox Patriarch at the beginning of November 2012: “The atmosphere between Catholics and Orthodox Copts has been completely transformed. Tawadros is very open. For example he attended the enthronement of the new Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac. That had never happened before. But in particular, the Coptic Pope intends to visit the Pope in Rome. There has been a real change here.”