Egypt’s pope blasts Mursi for ‘inaction’ over violence
CAIRO — The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church on Tuesday blasted the president Mohammed Mursi over his handling of the recent deadly sectarian violence, including an attack on the main cathedral in Cairo.
The remarks by Pope Tawadros II underscore rising sectarian tensions in Egypt. They were Tawadros’ first direct criticism of President Mursi since he was enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Christians. They are also likely to fuel the political turmoil roiling the country for the two years since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Tawadros also warned that the state of Egypt was “collapsing” and described Sunday’s attack on the St. Mark Cathedral in central Cairo, which serves as the Coptic papal seat, as “breaching all the red lines.”
Tawadros said Mursi had promised him in a telephone conversation to do everything to protect the cathedral, “but in reality he did not.” Asked to explain Mursi’s attitude, Tawadros, who spoke in a telephone interview to a political talk show aired on the private ONTV network, said it “comes under the category of negligence and poor assessment of events.”
On Sunday, an angry mob threw firebombs and rocks at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, leaving two people dead. One of the two was identified as a Christian.
The attack followed a funeral service for four Christians killed in sectarian clashes in a town north of Cairo early the day before. A fifth person was also killed. It was the deadliest sectarian violence since Mursi came to office nine months ago as the country’s first freely elected president.
Tawadros also criticised the president over his decision on Monday to revive a state body mandated to promote equality between Egyptians regardless of their religious and ethnic background. Mursi’s decision was in response to the sectarian violence. “Enough already of formations, committees and groups and whatever else,” Tawadros said.
“We want action not words and, let me say this, there are many names and committees but there is no action on the ground,” he added. Mursi has condemned the recent violence and ordered an investigation into the violence.
“Should we wait for instructions to start an investigation when something happens?” Tawadros said in response to Mursi’s order. “Egypt’s laws must be adequate to deal with the situation. This is a society that is collapsing. Society is collapsing every day.”
The office of Mursi’s issued a statement shortly after the pope’s remarks, saying that the “Egyptian presidency would like to affirm its full rejection of violence in all its forms, and under any pretext, and affirms that all Egyptians are citizens who should enjoy all rights and are equal before the law.”