By John Pontifex
THE leader of Catholics in Egypt has defended the memory of â€œhonest and sincereâ€ 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 9th October 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 â€œparticipateâ€ 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, underlines the Patriarchâ€™s â€œfull confidenceâ€ in the interim military regime after a week of criticism about the governmentâ€™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 Egyptâ€™s 250,000-strong Coptic Catholic Church, writes: â€œWith wounded hearts, weâ€¦express our deep sorrow for the bloody events suffered by honest and sincere children of the nation.
â€œThey wanted to contribute to the countryâ€™s democratic process with peaceful demonstrations like hundreds of other citizen groups.
â€œUnfortunately, it ended with the violent death of around 25 people, the vast majority of whom were Coptsâ€¦â€
The violence broke out at the height of the demonstrations as thousands of people â€“ including many Muslims â€“ marched to the state television centre 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 â€œusedâ€ a â€œrabble armyâ€ who hit out against the protestors using sticks, stones, swords and rifles.
But making no comment on the security serviceâ€™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: â€œWhile condemning again all acts of violence, we call on officials toâ€¦ provide security and safety and uphold the lawâ€™s supremacy and ensure the objectivity of the media.
â€œWe 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.â€
Patriarch Naguib concludes his letter with a clarion call to all Christians not to be deterred by the events of 9th October 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: â€œWe call on [Christians] to participate, in Egypt and abroad, in the current political and electoral process.
â€œThis 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.â€
Patriarch Naguibâ€™s comments come after Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, issued a statement condemning Egyptâ€™s security services for their response to the demonstrations.
In his statement, last week, Bishop Angaelos said: â€œThe same army that said in January that it would â€˜not fire a single shot against an Egyptian citizenâ€™ â€¦now used live ammunition and excessive force in this situation, firing lethal shots to the chest and head while armoured troop carriers were driven directly into crowds, mowing people down and killing many.â€
Â 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.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity â€“ helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named â€œAn outstanding Apostle of Charityâ€, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiativeâ€™s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Needâ€™s Childâ€™s Bible â€“ God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACNâ€™s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
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For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.