Cairo, Egypt, Apr 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A media representative for Egypt's Catholic bishops echoed concerns that police sided with Islamic extremists who attacked a funeral service en masse at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo.
“The police must have been aware of the situation. So why were the police not in front of the cathedral?” asked Father Rafik Greiche of the Egyptian Catholic bishops' conference.
He told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the police “only arrived two hours later, and then they protected the attackers.” Muslim extremists had previously threatened to disrupt the service, the priest said.
The April 7 funeral was for four Christians killed in a gunfight that followed a dispute in the town of Khusus near Cairo. A Muslim was also killed in that clash.
After the Christians’ funeral, mourners left the cathedral and joined sympathetic Muslims in chanting slogans against President Mohammed Morsi and calling for his removal.
At some point violence broke out for unclear reasons. At its worst, 200 people attacked the Christians, some throwing stones and petrol bombs from the roofs of buildings surrounding the cathedral.
Christians took up the defense of the cathedral and threw fire bombs and brick shards at the riot police, some of whom were injured.
The clash lasted until late in the evening. Two were killed and more than 90 hurt. The New York Times is among the media outlets reporting the apparent alliance between the attackers and the riot police.
Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan of Assiut has condemned the attack.
“Nobody could have imagined that anybody would attack such an important symbol for all Egyptians as St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo,” the bishop said. “It is shocking. But we will never learn the real motives for these attacks.”
Fr. Greiche said that other local Muslims have voiced their support and sympathy for the Christian community.
“All of our Muslim friends told us that the events make them feel ashamed,” he said.
The priest recently visited Azhar University, a prominent Sunni institution, noting that the sheiks there “assured us that such attacks are not compatible with Islam.”
The attack also drew condemnation from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who said he regarded any attack on churches as “a personal attack” against him.
Despite the president’s words, some Egyptian Christians told Reuters news service that the violence has prompted them to consider leaving their homeland.
Orthodox Coptic leader Pope Tawadros II said the president has not done everything he could to protect the cathedral.
“We want actions, not words,” he said.
Fr. Greiche said the violence comes at a time of improving relations between Egyptian Catholics and other Christians. The Catholic leadership is in “permanent contact” with the Protestant and Orthodox Churches in Egypt.
He said relations with the Coptic Orthodox have “completely transformed” since the election of Pope Tawadros in November 2012.
“Tawadros is very open,” he added. The Orthodox Pope attended the enthronement of the new Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac.
“That had never happened before,” he said.
Another unprecedented event in Egyptian Christian relations is still in development. Pope Tawadros intends to visit Pope Francis in Rome.
Denver, Colo., Apr 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 74th annual Tekakwitha Conference will mark an important event in Church history as it holds its first gathering since the canonization of the “Lily of the Mohawks” last October.
Though the conference this summer will follow a similar format to past ones, Sr. Kateri Mitchell, executive director of the conference, said this year will “center around the excitement and celebration” of the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint.
Each year, the Tekakwitha Conference gathers for its national meeting to further its mission of “evangelization and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ” among Native American communities and the world.
The event, which is held in a different city each year, could see as many as 1,000 participants from all over the United States.
Despite the “economic situation” and “all kinds of hardships” people are facing, Sr. Kateri said she expects a larger turnout than usual given that this will be the first gathering since the saint’s canonization in Rome on Oct. 22, 2012.
There is “a great excitement similar to our spirit that many experienced in Rome for the canonization,” Sr. Kateri said.
The conference aims to nurture the spirituality of St. Kateri, which is one of “deep prayer” and evangelization.
To that end, it will provide talks on Catholic theology and native spirituality in addition to wellness workshops.
The Tekakwitha Conference was originally founded in order to help Indigenous Catholics “reinforce Catholic identity” while at the same time affirming “pride in our cultures and spiritual traditions” which are “special gifts” to the Church.
This year’s theme is “Celebrating Faith, Culture and Tradition,” and will be held in El Paso, Texas from July 17-21.
The conference hopes to “strengthen” and “continue” the spirituality of St. Kateri, whom “we consider the first evangelizer to her people,” Sr. Kateri said.
“If we are to be followers of Christ and try to follow or walk in our patroness’ footsteps,” she explained, “then we will not be exempt from suffering.”
Rather, she said they should aim to “have the strength and the ability to move beyond and continue the work of Christ to go out and share the good news to all people, to the whole world.”
The event is all ages and family oriented, Sr. Kateri emphasized, saying that age groups represented each year range from infants to “elders in their 90s.”
“We take people of all age groups,” she said, “we feel very strongly about that.”
On the final day of the conference, participants will travel to the nearby Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Reservation for a meal, closing liturgy and procession of the traveling Kateri image, statue and relic that will be handed over to the 2014 planning committee.
Next year’s conference, which will be the 75th annual gathering, will be held in Fargo, North Dakota.