Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli reported to Fides news agency that two religious communities have left the town of Cyrenaica after facing pressure from local fundamentalists. Bishop Martinelli stated that according to reports in east Libya the “situation is critical.”
“On February 20, large-scale demonstrations throughout Cyrenaica are expected so the Apostolic Vicar of Benghazi has been warned to leave the church from February 13thto take shelter” Bishop Martinelli told Fides.
“In past days, the Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto who had been there for nearly 100 years were forced to abandon Derna, [along with] a Polish Salesian priest, who was abused by some fundamentalists. In Beida, another women’s religious community was forced to escape even if in this case, for internal reasons. In Barce, the Franciscan Sisters of the Child Jesus will leave their home in [the] coming days.”
Bishop Martinelli also said that while the situation in Tripoli has been relatively calm, the atmosphere in Cyrenaica has been extremely tense. “We regret having to reduce our activities in that area because we have built a very strong and beautiful relationship, made of testimony and friendship with the Libyan people, which unfortunately in recent times has been affected by the presence of fundamentalists,” Bishop Martinelli said.
“These do not represent the identity of the Libyan people but an expression of Libyan society today.”
The Libyan prelate stated that although the Church will take precautions, they will not abandon the Christians that remain in Libya. Bishop Martinelli said that two religious communities will remain in Benghazi, a small community in Tobruk, and a small community of Indian sisters will remain in Beida.
We remain impoverished, but full of hope that one day our communities will resume force,” Bishop Martinelli said.