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Nuncio to Egypt defends Pope against imam’s charges

Catholic World News - January 10, 2011

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, apostolic nuncio to Egypt, has issued a statement defending Pope Benedict against charges by the imam of al-Azhar Mosque that the Pontiff is interfering in the nation’s internal affairs.

Following a January 1 church bombing of a Coptic Orthodox church that left 21 dead, Ahmed al-Tayeb condemned the bombing and visited the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church to offer condolences. However, he also denounced Pope Benedict for calling upon civil authorities to protect Christians.

“I disagree with the Pope's view, and I ask why did the Pope not call for the protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?” said al-Tayeb, who accused the Pontiff of “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs.”

After reviewing recent statements by the Pope, Archbishop Fitzgerald said that “it is surely clear that he is not encouraging interference in the internal matters of any particular state, but that he is appealing to all, both individuals and governments, to respect the religious beliefs and practices of different communities and thus promote harmonious and peaceful societies.”

Before his appointment to Cairo, Archbishop Fitzgerald served as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 1987 to 2002 and as president of the dicastery from 2002 to 2006.

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