Coptic Pope, Morsi in War of Words Over Attacks on Christians
By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) -- Yesterday saw a sharp exchange of words between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Egyptian Presidency over the attacks on Copts in Al-Khosous city in Qaliubia on April 4 and 5 (AINA 4-6-2013) and the attack on mourners at St Mark Cathedral as they left the funeral service for Al-Khosous victims on Sunday 7th April (AINA 4-7-2013). One Copt was killed by gunfire in the attack and 89 were injured. One Muslim died after falling from a ladder, which he had climbed to destroy the Cathedral's security camera.

The attack on St. Mark Cathedral was not prevented by security forces, who stood by and watched.

Pope Tawadros II, who was not present during the funeral service on Sunday, announced today that he is retiring in the monastery of St.Pishoy in Wadi Natroun and has cancelled all previous apointments until further notice.

In an interview aired by St. Marcos TV he said that he was contacted by the President, who promised to secure the Cathedral, but "we have seen nothing. The kind feelings expressed by the President and those responsible is not enough in these matters and we are awaiting decisive and satisfactory decisions for everyone." President Morsi had said previously that the assault on the Cathedral is an "assault on him personally."

The Pope also heavily criticized the security services, which "failed in protecting and securing the cathedral." He said the attack on the Cathedral and the mourners on Sunday is unprecedented, the "first time in the history of Egypt that an attack takes place on the headquarters of the Coptic Church and this incident is surrounded by many question marks."

The Pope said that these events could have been avoided with the proper application of the law.

The Office of the President issued an English statement on Tuesday morning on the events of Al-Khosous and the subsequent events at the Cathedral. According to the statement, issued by Dr. Essam El-Haddad, Assistant to the President for External Relations and International Cooperation, events started when the mourners at the funeral of Copts who were killed in the events of Al-Khosous smashed and vandalized cars that were near the Cathedral, and residents hurled stones at the cathedral.

The statement added that individuals carrying firearms and Molotov cocktails and stones were seen above the Cathedral, which prompted the police to intervene to break up the clashes by using tear gas.

Father Angelos, the secretary of the Cathedral, said in a TV interview with Al Hayat Channel that according to primary police investigations those on top of the Cathedral were not Copts but outsiders, who were able to access the roof of the cathedral from by jumping from a building overlooking the Cathedral.

Yesterday 37 Christian and Muslim lawyers submitted a memorandum to the Attorney General, demanding an investigation of the interior minister and director of security of Cairo. The memorandum stated that as the mourners were leaving the Cathedral to bury their dead, they were met at the gates of the cathedral by a barrage of stones and bird shots, " within hearing and sight of the members of the Interior ministry who were present to secure the funeral." The mourners were astounded by the Central Security Forces firing tear gas at them, without justification. "The security forces continued firing tear gas at the cathedral and Copts in spite of the closure of the doors and the absence of any justification of this indiscriminate firing at the Copts; these attacks resulted in one person being shot dead and a large number seriously injured.

While the Cathedral was being attacked, Al-Khosous was being attacked again on Sunday evening after a "reconciliation" meeting the night before, resulting in eight injured and one dead.

The dead Copt, according witnesses on CTV Coptic Channel, was named Dawood Kamel. He was returning home from work with his younger brother at 9.30 pm on Sunday when he was stopped by four youths. When asked for his name he said Dawood, so they twisted his arm and saw the traditional Coptic cross tattooed on his wrist. He was stabbed with a large knife on his left side and died. Police said the killers are from outside al-Khosous. Dawood was a father of four young children and expecting a fifth.

Forensics of the Copts killed in Al-Khosous was carried out on April 6th on four of the victims, reporting that all deaths were caused by gun shots from snipers from high places, based on the angle of the bullets. Another of the victims named Milad was sprayed with Kerosene and set alight, his body was completely charred.

By Mary Abdelmassih


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