At the papal premises in the grounds of St Mark’s cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, Pope Tawadros II this morning received Libya’s ambassador to Cairo Ashour Hamed Bin Rashed
to discuss the recent attack against the Copts and the Coptic church in Benghazi.
Mr Rashed said the Libyan government denounces the attack against the church in Benghazi, an act which he described as criminal. He said that the Libyan government will surely uncover how it took place and who was behind it, and he assured the Pope that the church would be restored and reopened as soon as possible.
The ambassador insisted that all the talk about 100 Copts being detained was not true, and that those who had been caught by the Libyan government were only five Egyptians, one American, one Korean, and one South African woman. “As far as I know,” Mr Rashed said, “only one Egyptian is now detained.” This was taken to mean that the other three—one of the detainees, Ezzat Hakim Atallah, had died in custody last week—had been set free. He said that Atallah’s death was of natural causes and carried no criminal suspicion.
Egyptian law experts are welcome to go to Libya to follow on the legal proceedings of the case, he said.
Anba Pachomeus, Archbishop of Beheira, Matrouh and Pentapolis (Libya), said that he appreciated the kind sentiments and goodwill displayed by Mr Rashed. “We always solve problems through official channels,” Anba Pachomeus said. “Demonstrations and public protests only serve to compound matters.” He said that the Coptic Church demanded of the ambassador assurances that the churches in Libya, the priests and their families, and the Copts there should be offered protection, and that Mr Rashed promised that it should be so. A new priest will be soon dispatched to serve the Benghazi congregation in place of Fr Pola Ishaq who returned to Egypt two days ago, Anba Pachomeus said.
Pope Tawadros II had met with the leaders of the Coptic youth movements: the Maspero Youth Union, the Coptic Youth Front, and the Free Copts late last Friday. He discussed with the youth leaders the sit-in they were holding in front of the Libyan embassy, and told them that wrathful actions such as burning the Libyan flag and denying access to the embassy staff did not solve problems; in fact they were misunderstood and actually backfired, he said. The burning of the church in Benghazi was done in retaliation to the burning of the Libyan flag.
17 March 2013