The leader of Catholics in Egypt has defended the memory of “honest and sincere” Copts whose protest ended in violence and death and has called on the regime to step up security and do more to uphold the rule of law.
In an official statement about the October 9th pro-Christian demonstrations in Cairo, Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib of Alexandria went on to call on Christians not to be deterred and to continue to “participate” in political action towards the creation of a new Egypt post-Mubarak.
The document, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), underlines the Patriarch’s “full confidence” in the interim military regime after a week of criticism about the government’s response to the demonstrations, which according to latest figures, led to the deaths of about 25 people with 329 injured.
Patriarch Naguib, who is head of Egypt’s 250,000-strong Coptic Catholic Church, writes: “With wounded hearts, we…express our deep sorrow for the bloody events suffered by honest and sincere children of the nation.”
“They wanted to contribute to the country’s democratic process with peaceful demonstrations like hundreds of other citizen groups.”
“Unfortunately, it ended with the violent death of around 25 people, the vast majority of whom were Copts…”
The violence broke out at the height of the demonstrations as thousands of people, including many Muslims, marched to the state television center in Cairo, in protest at acts of persecution and oppression against Christians.
The following day, Fr. Antoine Rafic Greiche, official spokesman of the Catholic Church in Egypt, implicated the regime, saying that the army and police had “used” a “rabble army” who hit out against the protestors using sticks, stones, swords and rifles.
But making no comment on the security service’s response to the demonstrations, Patriarch Naguib in his letter calls on the regime to renew its commitment to upholding the rule of law.
He writes: “While condemning again all acts of violence, we call on officials to… provide security and safety and uphold the law’s supremacy and ensure the objectivity of the media.”
“We have full confidence that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Government and the Judiciary are able to lead the country to stability and security, ensuring the well-being and dignity of all its citizens.”
Patriarch Naguib concludes his letter with a clarion call to all Christians not to be deterred by the events of October 9th and to continue to be politically active.
In a reference to parliamentary elections due to start next month, with presidential elections next spring, he said, “We call on [Christians] to participate, in Egypt and abroad, in the current political and electoral process.”
“This is a sacred duty which [the Church] is not allowed to abdicate, aiming at establishing a modern, democratic state, based on the law, full citizenship, equality, justice and the guarantee of freedoms.”
Patriarch Naguib’s comments come after Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, issued a statement condemning Egypt’s security services for their response to the demonstrations.
**In his statement, last week, Bishop Angaelos said, “The same army that said in January that it would ‘not fire a single shot against an Egyptian citizen’ …now used live ammunition and excessive force in this situation, firing lethal shots to the chest and head while armored troop carriers were driven directly into crowds, mowing people down and killing many.”
Bishop Angaelos also called for a public inquiry into the state media, accusing it of biased coverage of the protests and falsely claiming that Christians instigated the violence.
With picture of Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib of Alexandria (© ACN) and accompanying statement by the Patriarch: ‘Call of the Catholic Church in Egypt’
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**Call of the Catholic Church in Egypt
"Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship, keep praying regularly… Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect. As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be in peace with everyone...Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good" (Romans 12:12-21-New Jerusalem Bible). In the light of these recommendations of St. Paul, we are seeking our way, at this time in which it is difficult to have a clear vision for the present and the future.
With wounded hearts, we join all the sincere forces of our nation, responsible for the present and the future of our beloved country, to express our deep sorrow for the bloody events, suffered by honest and sincere children of the Nation. They wanted to contribute to the country’s democratic process, with peaceful demonstrations, like hundreds of other citizen groups. Unfortunately, it ended with the violent death of around 25 people, the majority of whom were Copts, and 329 injured. We raise our prayers for the eternal rest of the victims, the healing of the injured, and the comfort for the grieving families. We ask that all Masses and prayers, on Sunday 16th of October, be dedicated to these intentions. We also joined all Christians, in fasting, and praying, following the call of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, so that God may give His Peace to our dear Country.
While condemning again all acts of violence and all those who commit such acts, we call on officials to take the necessary steps and firm measures to provide security and safety, establish clear and stable solutions to the problems that cause tension and conflict, uphold the law’s supremacy in dealing with conflicts and crimes, and ensure the objectivity of the Media. We have full confidence that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Government and the Judiciary, are able to lead the country to stability and security, ensuring the well-being and dignity of all citizens.
We call on all members of our Churches to dedicate their whole strength, to live in a sincere spirit of citizenship, of caring fraternity with all their brothers and sisters in the Country, and to work diligently in all the fields in which they are engaged, and positions they occupy. We call on them also to participate, in Egypt and abroad, in the current political and electoral process - this is a sacred duty, which it is not allowed to abdicate – aiming at establishing a modern democratic State, based on the law, full citizenship, equality, justice, and the guarantee of freedoms. This is in order to ensure a better future for Egypt, a shining future based on hope and work, to which we continue to contribute generously through our institutions for education, charity and development, at the service and for the good of all the citizens of our beloved Egypt, trusting in the Divine Providence that sustains us.
May the Almighty and Loving God help us, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, come to our aid, for His glory and the good of the whole Country.
Kobri-El-Kobbeh, Cairo – October 2011
+ Antonios Naguib
Patriarch Cardinal of Alexandria of the Coptic Catholics
President of the Assembly
of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Egypt