Vatican foreign minister meets ambassador called back to Egypt

By  Carol Glatz Catholic News Service
  • January 13, 2011
VATICAN CITY - In the wake of Egypt's displeasure at recent comments by the Pope, the Vatican's foreign minister met with Egypt's ambassador to the Vatican before the minister was recalled to Cairo for consultations.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, whose formal title is secretary for relations with states, met with Ambassador Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar Jan. 11, just hours after she was told to return to Cairo in response to Pope Benedict XVI's appeal to Egypt to protect Christians.

The Vatican said in a written statement that it "fully supports the government's concerns about 'avoiding an escalation of clashes and tensions for religious reasons,' and appreciates the efforts that it is taking in this direction."

Egypt had described as "unacceptable" the Pope's remarks about recent attacks against Christians in Egypt.

In an address to diplomats Jan. 10, Pope Benedict recalled the Dec. 31 bomb attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in Alexandria that left 23 people dead. He said the Alexandria bombing and attacks on Christians in Iraq were "yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities. Need we repeat it? In the Middle East, Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties toward their country."

Hossam Zaki, Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman, said the Pope's statement represented "an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs" and announced it was recalling its ambassador to the Vatican "for consultation."

The Vatican said that during the meeting between Mamberti and Mekhemar, she expressed the Egyptian government's concerns "at this present difficult moment, and she was able to receive information and gather useful details in order to properly report on the Holy Father's recent speeches, in particular on religious liberty and the protection of Christians in the Middle East."

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