Cairo – The Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II canceled yesterday, for the third consecutive time, the weekly meeting of public prayer and catechesis he held every Wednesday afternoon in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.
On announcing the cancellation of the meeting, the Secretary General of the Council of Churches in Egypt Fr. Bishoy Helmy justified the cancellation on behalf of the Patriarch by making explicit reference to the current difficult moment the country is facing, affected by the violence that followed the overthrow of Morsi’s government and the beginning of a new phase of political transition under the protection of the army.
“Since June 30” explains to Fides Agency the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Minya Botros Fahim Awad Hanna,
“Pope Tawadros avoids appearing in public, not so much because he fears for his life, but because he does not want people to gather for fear that some fool could throw a few bombs. At the moment there are those who accuse Christians of being responsible of the popular uprising of 30 June.”
According to Egyptian sources consulted by Fides, the Ministry of the Interior has given order to increase the levels of protection around Pope Tawadros and the Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al Tayyeb. Both the Patriarch and the Imam had appeared at the side of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3, when the strong man of the Egyptian army had exposed the transition plan for the next phase to the deposition of Islamist President Morsi.
In the clashes that followed Morsi’s arrest, 6 Copts were killed by gangs of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. In the transitional government presented on Tuesday, July 16, there are 3 Copts ministers out of 33: environment Minister Laila Rashed Iskandar, tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour and scientific research Minister Ramsi George.
Archbishops pledge solidarity with Christians in Egypt
Following fresh turmoil in Egypt, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have sent a message of ‘committed solidarity’ to Pope Tawadros II and Bishop Mouneer in Cairo
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have joined the call for prayers for unity, reconciliation and an end to violence in Egypt.
Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Dr John Sentamu wrote to the Coptic and Anglican leaders in Cairo today, pledging their ‘committed solidarity’ amid the recent turmoil in the country.
Writing to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and to the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, the President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Archbishops said they had been ‘very mindful of recent developments taking place in Egypt’ as they presided over the Church of England’s General Synod in York this weekend.
They added they were ‘very grateful’ for the presence of Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, who attended Synod as an ecumenical observer and spoke powerfully of the present situation in Egypt and his hopes for reconciliation.
The Archbishops wrote:
‘As Presidents of the General Synod, we are sending this message of committed solidarity with you at this time. We join in the call to pray for Egypt for unity and reconciliation and the ending to all violence, praying that all parties may be able to work together for a common future.’ They added: ‘May the Lord grant you grace and strength in this ministry of reconciliation.’
Egypt president promises to fight chaos before pro-Mursi rallies
The Muslim Brotherhood plans to demand the return of the ousted Islamic leader Mohamed Mursi. They have stirred up supporters to protest against the military overthrow this Friday, July 19.
Egypt’s new interim President, Adli Mansour vows to fight anyone steering the nation towards chaos.
“We are going through a critical stage and some want us to move towards chaos and we want to move towards stability. Some want a bloody path,” he said in a televised address. “We will fight a battle for security until the end.”
The Brotherhood along with the Alliance for Legitimacy groups shocked and against the new military-backed government, called for rallies on Friday, planning on millions to take to the streets. A statement by the alliance said,
“To every free Egyptian man and woman: Come out against the bloody military coup.”
A Brotherhood official, Gehad el-Haddad recently stated the organization would not retreat from its demand for the reinstatement of Mursi. Brotherhood had proposed through an EU envoy a framework for talks to resolve the crisis in Egypt and are now showing a willingness for negotiations. “We never close the door to dialogue,” Haddad added.
The EU envoy, Bernardino Leon, said the two sides remained far apart. It is hard to imagine the army letting Mursi return to power. The military has denied orchestrating a coup, saying it intervened to prevent chaos following mammoth protests on June 30 against Mursi’s much-criticized, year-long rule.
Egypt, the most populous nation in the Arab world, is a strategic hinge between the Middle East and North Africa and has long been a vital U.S. ally in the region. (Although in a recent statement, President Obama said, the U.S. would no longer consider the Egyptian government an ally, “but we don’t consider them an enemy.” Later, The State Department, cutting through the confusion over President Obama’s claim that Egypt is not a U.S. ally, contradicted his characterization when spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, Egypt is considered a major ‘non-NATO’ ally.)
Worried about war, the African Union warned on Thursday that Egypt was in being immersed by civil war unless its government embraced Islamists, none of whom were included in the 33-strong cabinet.
Nour party spokesman Nader Bakkar told Reuters,
“I believe that those in power need to realize that increasing pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood and playing down the emotions of their supporters will lead to extremely bad results.”
A security source told the official Middle East News Agency that policing would be intensified at “all important and vital facilities” on Friday.
Tamarud, the movement which organized the massive anti-Mursi protests, has also called for rallies on Friday, including one close to a Cairo intersection where thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been holding a vigil for weeks.
It called the rallies “the people against terrorism”, blaming Mursi followers for recent violence.
Three members of the security forces died overnight in attacks blamed on Islamist militants in the Sinai peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip. The militants have pledged to continue the fight until the return of Mursi, who has been held in an undisclosed location since his downfall.
Among the many accusations leveled against Mursi was mismanagement of the economy. The budget deficit has soared to about $3.2 billion a month, foreign reserves are more than 50 percent below their December 2010 levels and unemployment is more than 13 percent.
Bread has traditionally been one of Egypt’s most explosive issues and an ex-minister from Mursi’s government said last week that the country had less than two months’ supply of imported wheat in its stocks, well below its preferred six-month supply.
Looking to narrow the shortfall, Egypt’s main wheat-buying agency, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), bought 300,000 tonnes of wheat from global suppliers – only the second such purchase since February.
The cash-strapped government got a fillip with the arrival of the UAE aid, part of $12 billion that Gulf Arab states pledged after Mursi’s removal. Saudi Arabia is due to transfer $2 billion in the coming days, Egypt’s central bank said.
The funds should buy the cabinet time to try and fix Egypt’s numerous problems, although analysts have warned it might also persuade officials to delay difficult decisions needed to right the listing economy.
Concern for the safety of Egypt’s Christians grow by the day. Pray the rallies remain peaceful and for the protection of the Christian Community that has been targeted and caught in the middle!