CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 July 2017

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Egypt looks to the pope with hope

HONG KONG (SE): “In this Holy Week, the Christian community (in Egypt) is experiencing the passion of Jesus Christ with a mixture of fear and sadness,” Father Rafic Greiche, the spokesperson for the Church in the country, said after two bombs, one in Tanta and one in Alexandria exploded in churches on Palm Sunday, April 9, leaving dozens dead and more injured, Catholics are now looking to the visit of Pope Francis to give them hope.

Both bombings were claimed by the Islamic State, which Father Greiche described as a dire warning that it is close and able to strike at will, as evidenced by the fact that the person of the pope of the Coptic Church, Patriarch Tawados II, was attacked for the second time.

However, the courage of the people was not daunted and Father Greiche reported that they turned out in their thousands to fill the churches for Masses on the evening of Palm Sunday.

“Christians are accustomed to violence here,” Father Greiche was reported by AsiaNews as commenting.

He said that he believes that the situation has already gone past the stage of being able to be remedied, as the government has declared a state of emergency, something that is only done when no other options exist.

However, the Christians have not been left to mourn alone and have received hundreds of messages of solidarity and condolence from the Muslim community in the country, saying that these attacks do not represent Islam, as the religion of the great prophet, Mohammed, urges peace and harmony.

While Father Greiche said that he sincerely believes the messages of good will come from the heart, he noted that the higher Islamic authorities, like the University of al-Azhar, always remain circumspect, never willing to admit that the members of Daesh (Islamic State) are not Muslim, but just not Muslims of the right way.
“So far they have done nothing to change the mentality of the people, of the fundamentalists who can so easily turn to terrorism,” he pointed out.

However, he believes that the scheduled visit by Pope Francis to Egypt and the Mass that he is slated to offer on April 28 will still go ahead. “Nobody wants to cancel or postpone. The government will do everything to ensure his safety and he will use his time to send a strong message to the terrorists.”

However, he admitted that no one knows what will happen, as the only thing that is for sure is that more attacks will happen, but when will never be known.

The Coptic pope, Patriarch Tawados, is calling the victims the new martyrs and asking people to look to them for strength. “We can only look to the new martyrs and call ever more consistently on Christ to comfort us and safeguard our hope in the resurrection,” the patriarch said.

The Catholic Patriarch Sidrak said, “The fact that Pope Francis has confirmed his imminent visit is an important sign for Egypt’s Christians and for the entire country. Cancellation of the programme could have given the impression that bloodshed and terror can prevail.”

He added, “Behind these inhuman acts, whose traits are diabolical, lie discourses that nurture hatred and which circulate even on the media, influencing the mentality of great numbers of people.”

He explained that there is great need for change and for two years now the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has been insisting on the need to change the way religion is presented in order to cut at the roots of hateful thoughts which feed terrorism.

But the patriarch lamented, “No one listens to his words. Not even circles connected with al-Azhar (University) are convinced of the need for change.”

The Daily News in Cairo trumpeted the announcement from the deputy secretary of state in the Vatican, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, assuring the nation that there are no plans for the pope to reschedule the visit.

“There is no doubt that the Holy Father will keep the connection going. What happened causes distress and great suffering, but cannot prevent the pursuit of the peace mission of the pope,” Archbishop Becciu told Corriere Della Sera on April 9.

The Egyptian newspaper stressed that the pope refuses to associate Islam with terrorism.

Vatican Radio reported that Pope Francis issued a statement condemning the attacks.

It quoted the pope as saying, “To my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to the Coptic Church and to the dear Egyptian nation, I express my deep condolences. I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the families of the deceased and injured, and to the entire community.”

The statement reiterated that the papal visit to Cairo will go ahead on schedule.

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