February 4 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

4-EGYPTIAN-PROTESTER

Moves made to improve links with Egypt

— Pope Benedict calls for greater Vatican links to the African country in the midst of political violence

Pope Benedict XVI has moved to improve the Vatican’s links with Egypt even as the country becomes increasingly wracked with political violence.

The Holy Father has reached out to Muslims and the Coptic Church in the north African country after it was riven by a week of demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 30 years.

The demonstrations began on January 25 as people took to the streets to protest against unemployment, corruption and rising cost of living.

Fears are increasing that Egypt’s ancient Coptic Christian minority could become increasingly endangered should the protests against President Hosni Mubarak drive him from power.

Papal support

The Pope met with Oriental Orthodox leaders from Egypt at the Vatican on Friday, a month after a bomb attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria, Egypt, killed 23 people.

He told them that ‘when one Christian community is suffering, other Christians must offer assistance.’

“All Christians need to work together in mutual acceptance and trust in order to serve the cause of peace and justice,” he said. “We can only be grateful that after almost 1500 years of separation, we still find agreement about the sacramental nature of the Church, about apostolic succession in priestly service and about the impelling need to bear witness to the Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the world.”

Diplomacy

Vatican officials also said they were working to repair relation with the largest university in Egypt and said they hoped they would take part in an inter faith meeting later this year.

Leaders at Cairo’s Al Azhar University made the decision to freeze ongoing colloquia with the Vatican after the Pope was critical of Egypt’s failure to protect Christians following the Alexandria church bomb attack.

Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, said that the Church continued in a position of ‘openness and readiness to dialogue’ and was still seeking information on the breakdown in communications.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Vatican Congregation for Inter-religious Dialogue, said that despite confusion over the reasons for the apparent suspension, the Holy See hopes dialogue will continue.

Speaking for the Catholic Church’s delegation in a January 29 interview, he said they ‘would like to understand well’ the motivations that led to the freeze.

“I think an attentive reading of the words of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2011 message for the World Day of Peace and his speech to the Diplomatic Corps on January 10 would help dispel the misunderstandings,” he said.

Egypt

The political situation in Egypt remained tense as the SCO went to press, with British tourists being urged to return home from the popular holiday destination.

The former rector of Rome’s Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Fr Justo Lacunza Balda, said he believed political change was inevitable in the wake of the demonstrations.

“Ordinary people cannot tolerate anymore the appalling conditions of human degradation in which they live,” he said. “They say ‘enough is enough’ and believe that they have nothing to lose. Therefore, neither the police nor the army will stop people in the Arab countries from demanding freedom and human dignity.”

However John Bolton, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, fears for Christians in the country in light of the anticipated changes.

“It is really legitimate for the Copts to be worried that instability follow Mubarak’s fall and his replacement with the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

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