I was wrapping up my time at home when news broke that a Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt had been suicide-bombed on Christmas Eve.
One of the disturbing after effects of the attack has not only been Muslim-Christian riots and disturbances in Egypt, as well as fears among other Coptic communities of copycat attacks, but also the choice of an Egyptian Imam to criticize the Holy Father for expressing solidarity with Christians facing persecution and death:
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, has responded to criticism of Pope Benedict by the former grand mufti of Egypt.
Following a January 1 church bombing of a Coptic Orthodox church that left 21 dead, Ahmed al-Tayeb, current current Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, condemned the bombing and visited the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church to offer condolences. However, he also denounced Pope Benedict for calling upon civil authorities to protect Christians.
“I disagree with the Pope’s view, and I ask why did the Pope not call for the protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?” said al-Tayeb, who accused the Pontiff of “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs.”
Father Lombardi responded:
Pope Benedict XVI’s position is very clear, and always has been: a radical condemnation of violence, closeness to the community that has been so horribly stricken, and concern for the religious freedom of Christian minorities. As he said in his Peace Day Message, the Pope’s concern for the religious freedom of Christians has always been within the context of his concern for the religious freedom of all people, not only Christians. [Continue reading…]
Let us continue to pray for all those who face religious persecution and fear of death, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.