Pope Benedict XVI led condemnation of a New Year’s Day bomb attack in a Coptic church in Egypt
that claimed 21 lives, urging world leaders to defend Christians against abuse.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church was the first religious leader to react
to the bombing which targeted worshippers as they emerged from a midnight mass
In his homily at New Year’s Day mass, the pope spoke of mounting tensions, “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, calling for the “concrete and constant engagement of leaders of nations” to protect Christians.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal called on Christians to show courage in the face of the attack.
“This latest massacre must lead us to reflect on our vocation as Christians in this region, which cannot be allowed to turn its back on the Cross,” said Twal, the highest Roman Catholic prelate in the Holy Land.
US President Barack Obama denounced the bombing as “outrageous”.
“The perpetrators of this attack were clearly targeting Christian worshippers, and have no respect for human life and
dignity. They must be brought to justice for this barbaric and heinous act,” Obama stressed.
The EU’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement there could be no justification for the attack. “The right of Christian Copts to gather and worship freely must be protected,” she said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the blast as cowardly and barbaric, in a letter of condolence to his Egyptian counterpart. “It is with concern and great emotion that I learned of the terrorist attack which cost the lives of more than 20 people and wounded close to 100,” Sarkozy wrote to Mubarak. “Nobody should be worried nor afraid for their life in exercising their fundamental right to freely practise their faith,” Sarkozy wrote. “Facing terrorism and extremism … France will always be at your side,” he said.
Alistair Burt, a junior British foreign minister, said Britain sent “sincere condolences”.
“At the start of a new year the world must be increasingly vigilant against such attacks wherever they occur, remain united in promotion of common values of tolerance and stand against the terrorist philosophy of violence,” he said.
Italy’s foreign ministry denounced “the dramatic and systemic violence and persecution that Christian communities have for too long been submitted to in various parts of the world.”
Condemnation and condolences also flowed out from across the Middle East. (AFP)