POPE Francis denounced the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya by Islamic State (IS) yesterday, saying they were “assassinated just for being Christian”.
He made the comments during a meeting with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, at the Vatican,
Expressing his outrage, he said: “They only said ‘Jesus help me…’ The blood of our Christian brothers is testimony that cries out. Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn’t matter. They’re Christian.”
The executions have raised fears in Italy, due in part to Libya’s proximity across the Mediterranean Sea but also because one of the militants in the video said the group plans to “conquer Rome,” the seat of Catholicism.
The Pope and Moderator had a private audience to discuss both ecumenical relations between the two churches as well as their concerns about events in wider world.
They joined together to condemn the weekend terrorist attacks in Libya and Denmark, sharing their belief that both the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church must “work together for peace in the face of increasing radicalisation”.
Echoing the Pope’s words, Mr Chalmers said: “The fact is that when Christians are martyred, nobody is interested in whether they’re Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, they are just simply followers of Christ.
During the meeting, the Moderator also spoke of the strength of relations between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church. He said: “We rejoice that relations between our two Churches have never been more cordial and productive. We have travelled a significant journey”.
He added that they were seeing “substantial change for the good, most significantly at local level where ministers and priests have forged new friendships and people’s attitudes have changed.”
Mr Chalmers also extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit Scotland, saying “people of faith in Scotland, would welcome him with open arms”.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the most recent terror attacks, calling for “deep compassion for the bereaved and killed”.
The Most Rev Justin Welby called the violence “terrible cruelty”.
He said: “The killers seem to rejoice in ever more extreme acts carried out to inflict ever greater terror. We must all weep with those affected, and know that in the love of Christ all evil will be overcome.
“The darkness which IS seek to spread will be overwhelmed by the faithful lives of Christians shedding the light and peace of Christ. I have been in touch with the Anglican Church in Egypt to express solidarity.”
Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, said the killings caused “deep feelings of sorrow and pain”.
He added: “While every life is sacred and every death tragic, the particular brutality demonstrated in this instance, and others like it, shows not only a disregard for life but a gross misunderstanding of its sanctity and equal value in every person.”
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