Coptic Pope decries Friday protests as ‘weekly agitation’


Coptic Pope Shenouda III has expressed his “extreme anger” over weekly protests held recently following Muslim Friday prayers.

In official Coptic Church magazine Al-Keraza on Sunday, Shenouda noted that the past several weeks had been “trying.” He pointed in particular to the “angry protests in some of the mosques in Cairo and Alexandria.”

For the past three weeks, Muslims have staged demonstrations to protest comments made by a Coptic bishop in which he challenged the authenticity of certain verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy book. Muslims have also staged demonstrations in solidarity with Camillia Shehata, the wife of a Minya priest who is being held by church authorities after reportedly converting to Islam.

Protesters, the pope charged, had insulted the church and distributed leaflets inciting Muslims against Christians and the state against the Coptic Church. Such actions, he said, “serve to threaten national harmony and stability.”

Shenouda also accused certain local newspapers of incitement, saying that the latter preferred to publish news about sectarian tension instead of politics or the economy. He went on to point out that he had made several recent attempts to calm the situation by making television appearances and answering questions posed by the public.

“Things have calmed down to some extent in the papers,” he said. “But every Friday we anticipate intense agitation after prayers.”

Shenouda concluded by praising President Hosni Mubarak’s recent efforts to restore calm.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.