picture from Here
Courtesy of Irish Times
AS ROME’S 7,000-strong Christian Copt community prepares to demonstrate against terrorism tomorrow in the wake of the recent bomb attack which killed 21 people outside a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, Pope Benedict XVI and senior Church figures have once again expressed their concern about the persecution of Christians throughout the world.Speaking to the faithful in St Peter’s Square after he had celebrated the Epiphany Mass on Thursday, the pope offered special prayers and wishes for those eastern churches which “are currently sorely tested”.Earlier in the week, the pope had called the January 1st bombing at the Coptic Church of the Saints in Alexandria a “despicable act of death”, comparing it to the widespread violent intimidation being suffered by Christians in Iraq.Two Christians were killed in Iraq on December 30th as a result of 11 bomb attacks while the Iraqi Christian community was profoundly shaken by the October 31st explosion at the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady Of Perpetual Help in Baghdad.That bombing killed 68 people, including two priests.The Christmas-New Year period was also marked by deadly attacks on Christians in Nigeria and the Philippines. These killings also come in a week when the pope’s annual message for the January 1st World Day of Peace claimed that Christians were now the most persecuted religious group in the world.In Genoa, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, in an Epiphany address, echoed the pope’s concerns.“Together with the Holy Father, we are stunned by such religious intolerance and such violence. Along with the Holy Father, we call on the international community, starting with the European Union, to make itself heard and demand that the right to religious freedom be observed everywhere, without exception.”Meanwhile, such is the ill-feeling generated by the Alexandria killings that a delegation from Rome’s Islamic community has been asked not to attend tomorrow’s anti-terrorism march by the city’s Copt community.“We feel bitterness and sorrow for what we suffered in Eqypt,” said the Coptic bishop Barnaba el Soryany, adding that the Islamic community could hold their own demonstration but that this one was for “us orthodox Copts”.