VATICAN CITY, JAN. 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Egypt has recalled to Cairo its ambassador to the Holy See in a show of displeasure at the Pope’s defense of the country’s Copts. Before leaving the Vatican, she met with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi informed of Tuesday’s meeting between the archbishop and Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar.
“During the meeting the ambassador, who is to return to Cairo for consultations with the Egyptian foreign ministry, described the concerns of her government at this present difficult time,” a Vatican communiqué explained. “She was also able to receive information and gather the elements necessary in order to report adequately on the Holy Father’s recent remarks concerning, in particular, religious freedom and the protection of Christians in the Middle East.”
On Jan. 1, a suicide bomber killed 21 Copts as they were leaving the Divine Liturgy at Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt. Benedict XVI has affirmed his solidarity with the Orthodox Copts, most recently last Sunday during the Angelus address, and Monday during his New Year’s discourse to the diplomatic corp.
On Sunday, his comment came in the context of his greeting to a group of Italian Parliamentarians who had attended the midday Angelus address as a show of solidarity with the Egyptian Copts. His Monday statement noted the persecution of Christians in Iraq, after which he noted: “In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities.”
According to the Vatican communiqué, the ambassador’s meeting with Archbishop Mamberti gave the prelate a chance to affirm “how the Holy See shares the emotions of all the people of Egypt, struck by the attack in Alexandria.”
He also “gave assurances that it also fully shares the Egyptian government’s concern ‘to avoid the escalation of religiously motivated conflict and tensions,’ and appreciates the efforts being made to that end.”
According to a statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry, the call for the ambassador to return to Cairo is because “new statements from the Vatican […] are considered by Egypt as unacceptable interference in its internal affairs,” the AFP reported.
The ambassador told Rome Reports that “we do not share the view that Christians are persecuted in our part of the world.”