With a biretta tip to Rorate, I note a story on Ahlul Bayat New Agency that… well… read it yourself.
My emphases and comments:
CAIRO (Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – Egypt’s top Muslim cleric on Sunday criticised Pope Benedict XVI’s call for world leaders to defend Christians as interference in his country’s affairs, the official MENA news agency reported.
The call, [from Pope Benedict to respect the lives of Christians…] following a deadly church car-bombing in northern Egypt, was “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs,” Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the oldest Islamic seat of learning, told reporters. [This isn’t exactly the Imam at “Ahmed’s corner mosque in Lower Black Duck”, is it.] “I disagree with the pope’s view, [that Christians have the right to be alive…?] and [This is great….] I ask why did the pope not call for the protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?” he said at a news conference. [Ummmm… First, they weren’t being killed because they were muslims. Second, Pope’s asked for peace and respect for human life, there and everywhere.] Benedict at a New Year’s Mass at the Vatican appealed for the “concrete and constant engagement of leaders of nations” to protect Christians in the Middle East, in what he termed a “difficult mission.” In the wake of rising tension and “especially discrimination, abuse and religious intolerance which are today striking Christians in particular, I once again launch a pressing appeal not to give in to discouragement and resignation,” he said.
Tayeb, who renewed his condemnation of the New Year’s Eve church bombing which cost 21 lives, said Azhar, the highest institute in Sunni Islam, would form a joint committee with the Coptic Church to resolve disputes between the communities. The committee, which should begin its work in two weeks, will “discuss reasons for deterioration (in Muslim-Copt ties) and propose appropriate solutions,” he said. Tayeb later met with the head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, at his headquarters in Cairo’s St Mark Cathedral.
Let’s hope something comes from such meetings.
Sts. Nunilo and Alodia, pray for us.
UPDATE 4 Jan 0037 GMT:
On the site of Vatican Radio we read, with my emphases:
The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi renewed the Holy See’s commitment to authentic religious liberty as the essential element in the search for true peace.
He was responding to remarks from the chief imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt, who on Sunday condemned the deadly New Year’s attack on Coptic Christians emerging from church in Alexandria, but criticised the appeal by Benedict XVI to Egypt’s leaders to counter the persecution of Christians, as an “interference” in internal Egyptian affairs.
In his note, Fr. Lombardi notes both the Imam’s condemnation of the attack, and his personal visit to the Coptic Pope to offer his condolences, before going on to reiterate the position of the Holy Father and the Holy See.
In the note, Fr. Lombardi says that Pope Benedict XVI’s position is very clear, and always has been: a radical condemnation of violence, closeness to the community that has been so horribly stricken, and concern for the religious freedom of Christian minorities. As he said in his Peace Day Message, the Pope’s concern for the religious freedom of Christians has always been within the context of his concern for the religious freedom of all people, not only Christians.
Time and again, the Pope has condemned violence against all people – not only that, which is perpetrated against Christians. We recall his recent discourse to the new Ambassador to the Holy See from Iraq, in which the Holy Father spoke of the innocent victims of violence, both Muslim and Christian.
Right now, we need the commitment of all those responsible for the safety of peoples and the fight against terrorism; we also need all those from all faiths, from every persuasion, who work for peace, to commit themselves to opposing a foul plan that evidently aims to divide, to arouse tension, hatred and conflict. The Pope’s invitation to Assisi for this coming October demonstrates his desire to repeat the message that no war may be waged in God’s name, but only peace. Between the 6th and the 7th of January, Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas. Let us unite ourselves to them in profound solidarity with their suffering and with prayers for the peace of all their communities.