Coptic pope blasts Morsi over handling of violence

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THE leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has blasted the Islamist president over his handling of recent deadly sectarian violence, including an attack on the main cathedral in Cairo.

Pope Tawadros II’s remarks yesterday underscore rising Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt. They were his first direct criticism of president Mohamed Morsi since he was enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Christians.

Tawadros warned the state was “collapsing” and described Sunday’s attack on St Mark Cathedral, the Coptic papal seat, as “breaching all the red lines”.

The attack followed a funeral service for four Christians killed in sectarian clashes in a town north of Cairo the day before.

He said Mr Morsi had promised him in a telephone conversation to do protect the cathedral, “but in reality he did not”.

Asked to explain, Tawadros, who spoke in a radio interview by telephone, said it “comes under the category of negligence and poor assessment of events”. It was not clear whether he was accusing Mr Morsi or the wider government.

Egypt is already divided with Mr Morsi and Islamist allies in conflict with moderate Muslims, Christians and liberals. The political schism is essentially over Egypt’s political future after decades of dictatorship, a divide that compounded by a worsening economy and tenuous security. Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 90 million people, and their disaffection could spark wider civil unrest.