CBI questions head of Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch in murder case

Malankara Varghese murder case leads to Church

Mar Ignatius Zakka-I of Antioch with the Catholicose of
Puthencruz Mar Baselios Thomas I
Kochi (Kerala,India), October 21, 2011: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) unit, Thiruvananthapuram, on Friday 21th October quizzed His Beatitude Baselios Thomas-I, the Catholicos of Puthencruz and the Metropolitan of Angamaly Diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church of Antioch, in connection with the Malankara Varghese murder case at the CBI office here.The Catholicos of Puthencruz appeared before the CBI at its office in Kochi. According to CBI sources, the Catholicos of Puthencruz was closeted with investigating officials for three hours.

T M Varghese, also known as Malankara Varghese, a member of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church’s managing committee, was hacked to death by a gang outside a car workshop on the MC Road near Perumbavoor on December 5, 2002. The CBI took over the investigation following a High Court directive in 2007.

The CBI made the first breakthrough in the case when in April last year it arrested Joy Varghese alias Cement Joy, who confessed he had hired criminals to murder Malankara Varghese, a member of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church’s managing committee in December 2002 for a large sum of money.
Malankara Varghese
The murder is believed to be a fallout of the long standing feud between the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, headquartered in Kottayam, and the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church of Antioch, which has its headquarters in Ernakulam district. The thirty-six-old feud between the two churches has always been a bother for successive governments in the state and, on several occasions in the past, feuds between the followers of the two churches have ended in brawls.

Joy Varghese later admitted to the role of Fr Varghese Thekkekara, a priest and the manager of the Angamaly Diocese of the rival Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, in the conspiracy in the murder of Malankara Varghese. In May last year, the CBI filed its chargesheet, naming priest Varghese Thekekara, manager of the Angamali diocese of the Syrian Jacobite Church, as the first accused in the murder of Malankara Varghese.

In February this year, Saramma Varghese, widow of the murdered Malankara Varghese, said that without the help of church higher-ups, this would not have happened. She later filed a petition before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Court, Ernakulam that the investigation could not be completed without questioning the church higher-ups and the magistrate gave the nod to the CBI to go ahead with their job.

The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)
Express News Service , The New Indian Express


Malankara Orthodox condemns violence against Coptic Christians


Ahmedabad: H E Pullikkottil Dr Geevarghese Yulios, Metropolitan of Ahmedbad Diocese of the Indian Orthodox Church of the East, has issued a Kalpana supporting the cause of the Coptic Christians who have been subjected to serious violence in Egypt. Sectarian clashes had killed 24 people, mainly Coptic Christians, last week. Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios has issued a Kalpana from Bengaluru from where he is presently camping begins with offering prayers to Almighty for the Coptic Church.
It goes further: “The perpetrators of violence on Copts in which many people were killed this month in clashes during a demonstration over an attack on a church are condemnable. Action has not been undertaken to solve the problems of Egypt’s Coptic Christians headed by His Holiness Pope Shenuda III.”

“The Christian faith denounces violence. Some strangers infiltrated our sons and commit the wrongs for which the Copts have been blamed,” the church has rightly said in a statement.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church strongly condemns such acts by the Egyptian military and it extends full support towards their just cause. The church also extends its help and prays for them to tide over their present hour of crisis.

Last week, HH Pope Shenuda III, head of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, had called upon all the Oriental Christian churches to support their cause and fast for 3 days.

The Kalpana further notes the Copts felt that these problems occurred repeatedly without the perpetrators being held to account, the law being enforced or root causes of the problems resolved. The government’s decision after the deadly unrest that it would prepare within a month a legislation to lift restrictions on church building and banning demonstrations outside places of worship is welcome.

Dr Mar Yulios has wished the Copts blessings and to enable them to continue God’s Ministry. Christians, make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 80 million people. Islamists have been using disputes over the legal status of some church buildings to stir up sectarian conflict.

Source: orthodoxchurch.in


Maspero clashes a conspiracy by SCAF, say political powers, witnesses

By Heba Fahmy / Daily News Egypt October 13, 2011, 6:20 pm

CAIRO: The events of Oct. 9 were a full-fledged conspiracy led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to kill peaceful protesters, Muslims and Christians, according to a statement released Thursday by 29 political powers and public figures at a press conference Thursday.
"SCAF faced the peaceful march with live ammunition and armored trucks that ran over Egyptian citizens in a massacre that saw unprecedented violence," the statement read.
The political powers called for trying all those involved in the Maspero massacre, including the chief of military police General Hamdy Badin, Minister of Information Osama Heikal and the Governor of Aswan, Mostafa Al-Sayed.
They also called for cleansing state media and canceling the Ministry of Information, in addition to heeding to the Copts’ demands and issuing a unified houses of worship law.
The political powers and public figures included the Coalition of the Revolutionary Youth, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Democratic Labor and the Free Egyptian parties, in addition to actor Amr Waked and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris.
During the conference, a video was played showing armored trucks driven by armed military police running over protesters.
In one clip, a military officer is riding a public bus following the clashes, telling the people surrounding the bus, "I shot one of them with three bullets" as the crowd cheered and applauded him.
Several eye-witnesses backed the statement and recounted the bloody clashes at the conference.
"Once we entered the street near Ramses Hilton heading towards Maspero, we were faced with bullets, rocks, armored vehicles and tear gas," said Mary Daniel, sister of activist Mina, 25, who died in the clashes.
"The scene was more than horrific," she added.
Lobna Darwish, 25, said the march from Shubra started out with families, including children and grandfathers raising crosses.
When it approached Maspero, Darwish recalled, a row of riot police charged at the protesters and started beating them. First the riot police were firing in the air and then they started firing at the people, she said.
Darwish added that she saw four armored trucks deliberately run over people.
"At first when I saw the first tuck, I thought it was an individual case of a military officer who went crazy," she said. "But there were four armored personel carriers [APCs] running over the people again and again."
In a press conference Wednesday, the ruling military council denied that army forces used live ammunition against the Maspero protesters on Sunday, or that personnel intentionally used armored vehicles to run over civilians.
The council neither confirmed nor denied whether the army vehicles that crushed protesters were in fact driven by army personnel or civilians who got hold of the APCs.
Khaled Aly, member of the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, slammed the army's statements.
"The army never protected our revolution," Aly said. "Who attacked the revolutionaries on March 9 and April 9 in Tahrir Square? Who killed Mina Daniel?"
The military police cracked down on protesters in Tahrir Square on March 9 and April 9, and were accused of torturing those detained in the Egyptian museum and forcing female protesters to undergo virginity tests when they were temporariy held in military prison.
Aly said that fire trucks washed the streets in front of Maspero of all the evidence at 4 am Monday only hours after the deadly violence.
Aly questioned the role of the Prosecutor General and demanded that the case not be investigated by the military prosecution.
Magda Adly, a doctor at Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, echoed Aly’s sentiment, saying a “neutral committee needs to investigate the incident, not the military council because the council is involved in the clashes."
Adly, who witnessed the autopsies of some of the victims, said that at least seven died of gunshot wounds while 10 were run over by very heavy objects.
"We couldn't find the bullets inside the [victims’] bodies," Adly said.
Three of the bodies Adly saw suffered fractured ribs.
Adly added that there were reports that some of the bodies were thrown in the Nile by riot police and military forces. A complaint was filed to the Prosecutor General to search for these bodies.
Manal Khaled, an employee at the state TV building said that military police informed the employees to leave the building by 2 pm, because the building would be closed as a precaution against mass protests expected to be held by armed Copts later in the day.
"They told us that armed Copts would come to the TV building and [violent clashes] would erupt," she said.
Khaled left the building at 4 pm and said she saw a small group of "peaceful, unarmed," Coptic protesters, calling for the rights to build churches.
Later in the evening, Khaled headed towards Maspero again after hearing about the clashes.
She saw injured military officers entering Maspero for first aid, but added that the medical department at Maspero wasn’t equipped to deal with any serious injuries.
"I can only assume that the military officers had mild injuries, otherwise they would've been referred to an equipped hospital or they were just putting on a show," she said.
One of Khaled's colleagues told her that riot police wouldn't let him leave the building at 6 pm, saying that they had orders to fire on protesters.
Khaled also saw a group of ultra conservative Muslims, shouting "Islamic, Islamic" and holding clubs on Galaa Street near Maspero.
"One of them stopped me and asked whether I was a Muslim or a Christian," she said.
Amr Ghoneim, a Muslim who participated in the march, also said that a group of conservative Muslims appeared near Maspero saying that they were informed by interior ministry officers that Copts were burning copies of the Quran in front of Maspero.
"We had to convince them that we were Muslims and get them to listen to us," he said.
The witnesses said that they were attacked with rocks under Shoubra bridge, but weren't sure where the attacks came from.
"Until when will Egypt continue to suck the blood of its [own] children?" Daniel asked. “Mina dreamed of the day where he would see Egypt beautiful and free.”


Statement of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on the Egyptian Military's Massacre of Copts

The Russian Orthodox Church has followed the developments in Egypt with concern and bitterness. Blood has been spilt and Christian churches have been destroyed again. There is another manifestation of growing intolerance towards Christians and their legal and physical vulnerability in the Egyptian society.

Our Church knows from her recent history what the suffering of innocent people and destruction of churches are. We raise our voice in defence of our Egyptian brothers in faith and call upon the world community not to be indifferent to this lawlessness. The United Nations and other international organizations and leading world powers capable of influencing the policy of the new authorities in Egypt should unequivocally come out against the persecution of Christians and do everything to help establish interreligious peace and security in the region.

The tragic ordeals the Egyptian Christians are undergoing so courageously are links in the same chain which has already brought out a new and ever growing wave of emigration. Egypt is a country in which the Christian and Muslim communities have lived together for centuries. The aggression against Christians lies on the conscience of destructive radical forces whose motives are not at all religious. We appeal to the leaders of the Islamic world to express a clear condemnation of the violence against Christians, to respect their right to openly confess their faith and to preserve their religious and cultural traditions. At an hour when the very future of Christian-Muslim dialogue is threatened, religious leaders should demonstrate in deed their commitment to peace and mutual understanding.

We called upon the Egyptian authorities to put an end immediately to the violence against the ancient Coptic community, to the murders of Christians, to the defilement of churches and shrines. It is insufficient to declare commitment to the principles of justice and human rights; rather it is necessary to ensure the real observance of freedom of conscience in the country. The historical Christian community in Egypt should have the right to confess its faith freely and safely and to preserve its old churches and to build new ones.

The Russian Church once again expresses her support for the suffering Egyptian brothers in Christ, calling them to preserve the spirit of peace, to defy provocations, to be faithful to our Saviour in their suffering.

+ Kirill
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

Source: lacopts.org

His Holiness Pope Shenouda III Addresses Copts around the World on the Massacre of Copts in Maspero

The Pope spoke about the martyrs of the Maspero clashes on Wednesday during his weekly sermon at St. Mark's Cathedral.

CAIRO, Oct.12: Before the Pope Shenouda III began his weekly sermon, he gave his condolences to the congregation for the Maspiro Martyrs. “Those that protested peacefully without bearing arms”, he continued referring to those who were killed, “walked from Shubra to Maspiro in the open, without weapons, full of courage.”
The crowd responded loudly with chants saying “Raise your head up, you are Coptic”, a slogan that has become popular during Coptic protests.

He confirmed 24 dead and over 300 injured. “The scale of these casualties has never been seen to this extent before!”, the Pope said. “Autopsy showed two thirds of the martyrs died from bullet wounds and a third died by being run over by army vehicles”, after which many were angered in the crowd.
“These beloved sons of ours are loved by us and their blood is not cheap! For their love to God and for God’s love to them, He allowed them to go to heaven before us. They are looking down from above and are praying for us. We salute them with all the prayers of the clergy, monks and the congregation.”
The Pope concluded this segment by saying, “Rest assured that God has witnessed everything and God will do according to his divine good will.”

—Fr. Moses Samaan ,Thursday, October 13, 2011

English description and quotes provided by Coptic World



Abba Seraphim offers condolences to H.H. Pope Shenouda

Your Holiness, dear Father in God,

For the second time this year it is my melancholy duty to send to you the profound condolences of your British Orthodox clergy and faithful at the deaths of so many faithful Christians who were peacefully protesting against recent attacks on Coptic churches. We join wholeheartedly in the three days of prayer and fasting and share the grief and shock which the loss of so many innocent lives deserves.

We also extend our deep sympathy to the families and friends of all the departed as well as well as those who were injured in the vicious and unwarranted attacks which took place.

We earnestly pray for peace and justice in Egypt so that all sections of society may be united in rebuilding a free and fair society so that the people of Egypt may be united together in common cause for the benefit of all.
We thank God for preserving Your Holiness in health and safety to lead the church and ask Him to uphold you in your sacred ministry.

Commending myself to Your Holiness’s prayers.

Your loving and faithful son-in-Christ,


Metropolitan of Glastonbury and Head of the British Orthodox Church

Source: British Orthodox Church


Roman Pope, at audience, condemns attack on Christians in Egypt

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY, Oct-12-2011 (CNS) -- Condemning an attack on unarmed Christians in Egypt, Roman Pope Benedict XVI said that during the country's transition to democracy, all of its citizens and institutions must work to guarantee the rights of minorities.

At the end of his weekly general audience Oct. 12, Pope Benedict said he was "profoundly saddened" by the deaths Oct. 9 of at least 26 people, mostly Christians, after peaceful protesters were attacked by gangs, and then a speeding military vehicle ran into them and officers fired on the crowd. Hundreds of people were injured.

The pope said Egypt, which has been transitioning to democracy since the February ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, has been "lacerated by attempts to undermine peaceful coexistence among its communities."

Safeguarding harmony and cooperation is essential for a future of true democracy, he said.

The pope asked Catholics to pray that Egypt would "enjoy true peace based on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every citizen."

"In addition, I support the efforts of Egyptian civil and religious authorities in favor of a society in which the human rights of all -- especially minorities -- are respected to the benefit of national unity," the pope said.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population; 90 percent of its 82 million inhabitants are Muslim.

Bishop Camillo Ballin, apostolic vicar of Northern Arabia and outgoing general secretary of the conference of Latin-rite bishops in Arab countries, told the Vatican newspaper that the bishops are worried about the shifting tone of the changes occurring in countries throughout the region.

"Christians are afraid. In Egypt, like in other countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, people live under an atmosphere of continuous tension. Our people are exposed to violence and see a lack of protection," said the bishop, who attended the pope's general audience.

Bishop Adel Zaky, apostolic vicar of Alexandria, Egypt, was also present. He told the newspaper that Egyptians need prayers and the encouragement of the international community to respect human rights and protect minorities.

Egypt also needs to hold elections, he said. Balloting for the lower house of parliament has been promised for late November as a first step toward ending military rule. "One cannot rule with an iron fist," Bishop Zaky said. "For too long there has been a climate of violence, which has led to the burning of churches, to maltreatment, but especially to the death of many innocent people."

Comboni Father Luciano Verdoscia, a missionary in Egypt, said that over the past 40 years successive governments have exploited differences between Christians and Muslims in the country, and tensions were increased by money and influence from Islamic groups outside the country.

But Father Verdoscia said Western countries also share some of the blame. "I fear that Western governments are interested in preserving their economic interests at the expense of individual rights. They do not have the ethical strength to denounce discrimination against minorities in Middle Eastern countries," he told Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, told Vatican Radio a lack of government activity is partly to blame for the rise in violence.

"It all stems from the government's failure to enact a law that regulates the building of places of worship, be they churches or mosques, which they promised to do months ago," Father Greiche said. The Christian protesters had been rallying to call for an end to attempts to burn down churches that some critics say are being built illegally.

Father Greiche said, "At the time of the old regime of Mubarak, there were also churches being burned and it was the security forces that always used to take care of us. Now even the government does not give a damn about what is happening."

In his main audience talk to about 14,000 people in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict spoke about the joy and gratitude reflected in Psalm 126 and how Christians have an obligation to recognize the gifts God have given them and to offer thanks.

"In our prayer we must look more often at how, in the events of our lives, the Lord has protected us, guided us and helped us and we must praise him for what he has done and still does for us. We must be more attentive to the good things the Lord does; we always notice the problems and difficulties -- it's almost like we don't want to see there are good things that come from the Lord," the pope said.

- - -
Courtsy: Catholic News Service


FRESNO, ANTELIAS - Yesterday, 10 October 2011, while on a pastoral visit to the USA, Catholicos Aram I wrote to His Holiness Pope Shenouda III conveying his condolences for the death of innocent people by the Egyptian security forces during a peaceful demonstration in Cairo.

In his letter, His Holiness Aram I expressed his solidarity with Pope Shenouda III, as well as he expressed his concern for the rights of Copts in Egypt. He then reminded that Christian-Muslim dialogue is the only way to living together in mutual understanding and respect.

Archbishop Mushegh of the Western Prelacy contacted Metropolitan Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese in California and transmitted the condolences of His Holiness Aram I.



Thousands mourn victims of Maspero violence; church blames 'infiltrators'

Thousands congregated inside the Abbasiya Cathedral to
mourn the martyrs. (Daily News Egypt Photo — Hassan Ibrahim)

By Omnia Al Desoukie/Daily News Egypt October 10, 2011, 8:15 pm

CAIRO: Egypt’s Orthodox Church called on Christians around the world to pray and fast for three days to mourn the martyrs of Sunday’s violence.
The church’s Holy Synod condemned in a statement what it described as "an attack on Copts."
Deadly clashes between army forces and protesters resulted in the death of 25 and around 330 injuries on Sunday night when a march to Maspero — demanding Coptic rights and condemning an earlier attack against a church in Aswan — was itself met with violence.
A statement released by the Holy Synod after a meeting with Pope Shenouda accused "infiltrators” of fueling the clashes.
"Copts feel that their problems are recurring without anyone being held accountable, without enforcing the law and without presenting any solutions for the root causes," the statement read.
Head of the Episcopal Community in Egypt and the Middle East Bishop Mounir Hanna Anis said in a statement that the way sectarian issues are dealt with leads to more strife.
"Reluctance to take necessary legal actions against whoever fuels sectarian strife that weakens the state of law all lead to escalating tensions," he said, adding that resorting to reconciliation sessions is "shameful."
Thousands of Copts attending a mass at the Abbasiya Cathedral mourned their dead and many were furious at the ruling military council. Eyewitnesses say army forces used heavy-handed violence against peaceful protestors and that army vehicles ran over protesters on Sunday night.
Sunday saw the deadliest clashes since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. A curfew was imposed from 2 am to 7 am on Oct. 10 in Tahrir Square and surrounding areas, all the way to Abbasiya.
By morning, the situation had calmed but devastated families mourning their loved ones could not be consoled.
Some of the injured were taken to the Coptic Hospital in central Cairo, where hundreds of Copts had gathered early on Monday. The hospital had taken in at least 17 dead and numerous wounded protesters.
Inside the morgue, dead bodies were laid on the floor, a number of which with visible bullet wounds. One victim’s face was crushed, and according to eyewitnesses, he was one of several protesters run over by army vehicles.
Various eyewitnesses told Daily News Egypt that nine bodies were thrown into the Nile but this could not be independently verified.
Throughout the day, chants resounded around the hospital and at the Cathedral: “Raise your head high, you are a Christian,” and “Down, down with Tantawy.”
A dozen young angry Copts attacked a police car on a side street near the church, venting frustration over police involvement in brutality towards citizens. But others on the scene asked them to stop.
Ramy Atef, 26, suffered a broken leg and said that an army vehicle ran him over almost completely, but people managed to pull him away. “Is this Essam Sharaf, the revolution’s prime minister? Where is that revolution?” he said.
A Coptic lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Every event that takes place in Egypt against Copts is never investigated properly. Why did they open fire on peaceful protesters while they did not against those who attacked the Israeli embassy?”
Presidential hopeful Bothaina Kamel, who joined the protesters on Sunday, said she sought shelter at Al-Hurra channel’s office along with some protesters once the violence started, adding that they could hear attackers in the building saying “Allah Akbar (God is Great).”
“By the time we got out, we found the stairs were broken. To pass by any of the street checkpoints we had to prove that we were Muslims,” said Kamel.
Egypt’s Coptic community makes up around 10 percent of the population and has long complained of discrimination and demanded equal rights. While many are quick to point out the marginalization of Egypt’s Copts, less are inclined to label the country as a sectarian state.
Many observers have said that these underlying issues are often manipulated by authorities seeking to cling to power, an accusation often leveled against the Mubarak regime.
Incidents such as Sunday night’s events are usually followed by widespread calls for national unity and shows of solidarity between Muslims and Christians.
The latest crackdown has brought these issues back in the spotlight.
“Why didn't they [security forces] do this with the Salafis or the Muslim Brotherhood when they organize protests?” said Sami Raouf, one of the protesters.
Confusion at the morgue
Early in the day, families at the Coptic Hospital debated whether to send the victims for autopsies. While some demanded that autopsies be performed, others objected. Priests at the hospital had attempted to convince families to allow doctors to conduct autopsies, but they refused.
An exclusive meeting was convened to make a final decision, comprising the Coptic Hospital’s director Dr Moheb Ibrahim Fanous and members of the general prosecution, national security and two priests. Only three journalists, including a reporter from Daily News Egypt, were allowed in.
Death certificates were initially issued without families’ consent, but the family of deceased activist Mina Daniel stormed the meeting and demanded that autopsies be conducted first.
“We want to know exactly what killed our son — an army bullet or a civilian bullet or what?” his mother said.
Later on, the Orthodox Church approved the procedure and some families agreed. Those who did not, however, laid the bodies of their loved ones to rest after a mass at Abbasiya Cathedral on Monday.
The hospital itself does not house a forensics department, but it was agreed that personnel would be brought in from the Zeinhom Morgue. At time of press, autopsies had been completed on all victims.
Families of those who were buried earlier said an autopsy will just be another injustice, citing the case of Khaled Saeid.
Thousands mourn in mass
By the time four coffins arrived at the cathedral, thousands of distraught Copts had congregated inside and outside, mourning and chanting against the ruling military council.
“We will live and die to protect the cross,” chanted thousands.
As coffins were carried into the church, thousands hailed the victims as martyrs who were destined for heaven.
Pope Shenouda was present at the mass along with presidential hopeful Amr Moussa as well as Gamila Ismail.
After prayers, a representative of the Holy Synod read the statement condemning the violence. However, it did not mention the military council, which many Copts present believe incited violence against them.
They specifically blame state TV for saying that Coptic protesters were attacking the army, and urging citizens to go to the streets and protect the armed forces.
Some Muslims joined the mass in solidarity.
“I am here supporting the families of the martyrs and I was hoping that a lot of Muslims would make it to show the whole world that it is not sectarian strife, but an army against its people,” said Amira Abdel Hamid, one of the protesters who was also in the march.
Egypt's top Muslim official called for emergency talks on Monday between Muslim and Christian leaders, AFP reported.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, who heads Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, called for talks with members of the Egyptian Family — an organization that groups Muslim and Christian clerics — "in a bid to contain the crisis," state television said. –Additional reporting by Essam Fadl

Courtsy: Daily News Egypt

Funeral mass of Maspiro victims

Relatives of Coptic victims of Maspiro clashes during funeral mass led by Pope Shenouda III in Abbasiya Cathedral, Cairo, October 10,2011. 24 killed, and more than 250 injured-mostly of Copts- during clashes between military forces and thousands of Coptic protesters at Maspiro. —Photographer: Mohamed Hossam Eddin —almasryalyoum.com
— Mon, 10/10/2011 - 16:26

Statement of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church Issued after its October 10, 2011 meeting

A meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church was held in the Papal residence in Cairo, Egypt on 10th October 10, 2011. It has issued the following statement:

The Holy Synod was troubled by the incidents that happened yesterday, Sunday; the martyrdom of more than 24 Christians and the wounding of 200 during their peaceful march.

While stressing our Christian faith rejecting violence in all its forms, we cannot neglect that strangers might infiltrate among our sons and commit mistakes that are attributed to the latter.

Still Copts see that their problems are consistently repeated without punishment or legal action against their aggressors or implementation of radical solutions to these problems. The Holy Synod invites the Coptic people to pray and fast for three days starting tomorrow Tuesday so that the Lord dwells with His peace in our beloved country Egypt.

Pope Shenouda declares days of mourning after protest turns violent

By The Catholic Free Press October 11, 2011

March staged by Copts from Shubra to the state TV building,
known as Maspiro, condemning violence on Aswan church,
9 October, 2011 —Mohamed Hossam Eddin— almasryalyoum.com
CAIRO (CNS) — Orthodox Pope Shenouda III declared three days of mourning, fasting and prayer for victims of peaceful protests that turned violent, and church and government leaders called for Egypt to reaffirm its commitment to religious freedom.
At least 26 people — mostly Christian — were killed and nearly 500 were injured Oct. 9 as gangs armed with firebombs, sticks, swords and rocks attacked about 1,000 people staging a peaceful sit-in outside of a state television building. As the violence escalated, a speeding military vehicle mounted a sidewalk and rammed into a group of protesters, killing a number of them.
Witnesses said headless bodies lay in the street in the worst sectarian violence since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in the “Arab Spring” revolt earlier this year.
But several Catholic leaders said the problem had moved beyond sectarianism.
“The army and the police are confronting the Copts. This is the problem,” Father Rafic Greiche, official spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, said in a statement to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. “It is not a Christian-Muslim problem anymore. … People — not just Christians but many Muslims, too — are frightened for the future of our country.
“We are accusing the army and the police who used vagabonds, a rabble force of street fighters, to attack the demonstrators,” the priest said.
“They were armed with swords, sticks and stones — some of them had rifles, it seems,” he said. “They did not have to use force. It was a peaceful demonstration.”
Hardline Salafi Muslims have initiated violent protests against the construction of two churches in southern Egypt on the grounds that the building projects were illegal. Four churches have been subjected to arson attacks in as many months.
The Christian demonstrators were protesting one such attack on a Coptic Orthodox church and were seeking greater protection from the authorities.
Catholic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza told Vatican Radio that Christians were asking to be able to live peacefully in their own country
“If they (the police) had taken a position of being against those who destroyed the churches, we would never have gotten to this point,” he said.
Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, told Vatican Radio the situation was provoked by outsiders and added that it was complex.
He said even the armed forces have a dilemma: Do they “face the people creating conflict by (using) force or act very cautiously, giving the impression they are slow and lack resolve?”
Under Mubarak, any permit to do with a church building — even repainting it — had to be signed by the former president. At least one priest recalled waiting more than 21 years for a permit and said that, even after a permit was granted, state or local officials could stop construction for “security issues.”
Cardinal Naguib told the Italian bishops’ news agency, SIR, that the “attacks by Islamists against Christian institutions continue always under the pretext that churches are being built without explicit official authorization, which still remains very difficult to get.” He said it was hard to tell how Egypt’s leaders viewed the treatment of Christians, because Shariah, or Islamic law, seemed to conflict with some previous declarations of intent.
He said Egyptian Christians have lived through similar situations.
“We will continue to do all we can, sustained by prayer and trust in God, and the spiritual and moral support of all Catholics, Christians and people of good will,” he said.
Skirmishes in Cairo continued through Oct. 10, with several hundred Christians pelting police officers with rocks outside the hospital were many of the victims were taken.
In a televised address Oct. 10, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf blamed the violence on foreign intervention and warned Egyptians that such actions would delay the country’s transition to civilian rule.
Government leaders also weighed in on the violence.
The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama was deeply concerned by the Oct. 9 incident.
“As the Egyptian people shape their future, the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities — including Copts — must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom,” said an Oct. 10 White House statement.
The European Union and British Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned the violence and urged Egyptian authorities to reaffirm freedom of worship.

The Catholic Free Press


Live Updates: Protesters march from Coptic Hospital to cathedral

Mon, 10/10/2011 -

1:01 am: The funeral service is over.
12:56 am: The priest announces that all of the martyrs will be buried together in a collective Christian cemetary in 6 October City. A commotion errupts as the coffins are taken from the cathedral and crying mourners struggle to touch them.
12:40 am: The cathedral is full of mourners. The priest says that the martyrs have "saved the church with their blood."
12:20 am: Al-Masry Al-Youm reporters estimate that 20,000 people joined the march, which was entirely peaceful. Local residents seemed supportive of the march, with some throwing bottles of water to thirsty protesters from their balconies. Some people are now inside the Coptic Cathedral praying.
11:43 pm: A march of thousands from the Coptic Hospital on Ramses Street has arrived at the largest Coptic cathedral in Cairo in Abbasseya. Protesters chant, "Muslims and Christians are one hand!"
11:20 pm: Thousands of protesters are marching along Ramses Street, carrying the dead bodies of 17 people killed in the Maspero violence from the hospital to the Cathedral in Abbasseya. As they march, they are chanting: "Down with military rule!" and "This is not a sectarian conflict, this is a military massacre."
7:20 pm: Thousands are marching from the protest outside of the Coptic Hospital toward Maspero, the state TV building that was the site of last night's clashes.
6:49 pm: The cabinet announced through its Facebook page the addition an article to the penal code called the Equality Law, stipulation special punishments for anyone who carries out any action that causes against individuals or communities based on gender, race, language or religion, and which might lead to unequal opportunity or social inequality. Punishments can include a detention or a fine ranging from LE30,000 to LE50,000.
The punishment increases to at least three months in detention and a fine of between LE50,000 to LE100,000 if the perpetrator is a public employee.
The article was drafted by the cabinet two months ago and was pending SCAF’s approval.
5:53 pm: A spokesperson for US President Barack Obama said in a news conference that "the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities -- including Copts -- must be respected."
5:40 pm: Information Minister Osam Heikel appears on state television and announces that anyone who "spreads rumors" about state TV will be tried.
5:25 pm: A group of approxmately 1500 protesters are rallying outside the Coptic Hospital. Protesters have blocked Ramses Street and are chanting anti-SCAF slogans. More people seem to be arriving in small groups.
4:39 pm: Khaled Ali, a lawyer and the head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, is at the Coptic Hospital with the head of the coroners office. They are awaiting the arrival of the rest of the autopsy team.
4:22 pm: Standing outside the cathedral after the funerals, Aida Mahrous, 42, told Al-Masry Al-Youm: "The next regime will be the same. The policy will never change. The solution to our problems is to prove we are one people, Muslim and Christian, because the regime will stay corrupt." Mahrous was not entirely pessimistic, however. "When the church bombing happened on New Years’ Eve [in early January 2011], we waited 25 days and look what happened. We’re chanting again now."
Another protester outside the cathedral said that during the clashes last night he was taking his wife to the hospital when he was stopped at a joint military-police checkpoint on the on-ramp to the October Bridge. A group of men in civilian clothes were also present, the man said. They asked him religion and smashed his windshield with a rock when he told them he was Christian.
4:11 pm: The Coptic Hospital, where many of the bodies of those killed yesterday are being held, is closing because autopsies are due to begin soon.
4:06 pm: After exiting the cathedral, mourners have gathered nearby and are chanting against Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's de-facto ruler.
4:03 pm: Mililtary prosecutors have begun interrogations of 25 suspects implicated in the violence yesterday, according to state media.It is unclear whether the investigations are being conducted by the military prosecutors or the public prosecutor, who just ordered an autopsy team to the Coptic Hospital where most of the bodies are being held.
4:00 pm: Khaled Ali, a lawyer and the head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, say he and other lawyers have spoken to the Attorney General and agreed to bring an autopsy team to the Coptic Hospital.
3:55 pm: Funeral services for the victims of last night's violence end and the bodies of those killed leave the Coptic Cathedral in Abbasseya on their way to burial.
3:45 pm: The priest at the funeral service announces that only four bodies are present, as the rest await autopsies. The Coptic Church issued a call to its followers to begin a three-day-long fast to mourn those killed.
3:40 pm: Coptic Pope Shenouda III is offering prayers over the coffins of those killed last night.
3:35 pm: Al-Azhar, Egypt's most highest religious institution, has called for a new law regulating the construction of churches. The initial incident in Aswan that sparked last night's protest was an attack on a church that attackers claimed was being built in contravention to the law. Coptic groups have long complained that laws regulating houses of worship are discriminatory.
3:30 pm: The Muslim Brotherhood has released a statement saying that last night's violence indicates an attempt by both internal and external forces to abort the revolution and disrupt the march towards democracy. “There are certain channels, means and times for demanding legitimate demands and all Egyptian people have legitimate demands, not only our Coptic brothers,” said the statement. “This is certainly not the right time to demand them since the current government is an interim government and the general conditions are abnormal." The Brotherhood's statement added that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces maintain the current schedule for elections.
3:15 pm: State TV has raised the death toll from yesterday's violence to 25.
3:00 pm: Church representatives are meeting with families of the dead at the Coptic Hospital to discuss autopsies.
2:20 pm: Activists say that families of all 17 dead at the Coptic Hospital have agreed to request autopsies.
1:30 pm: A team of detectives from the public prosecution examined the scene of the clashes that took place outside Maspiro on Sunday. The investigation aims to count the number of deaths and assess the damages to public and private property. The investigators visited hospitals to hear statements from victims and talked to dozens of eyewitnesses, according to the state news agency MENA. The attorney general has ordered permission to bury 20 bodies of those who died in the fighting.

Courtsy: almasryalyoum.com

Egyptian Army, Police Kill 35 Coptic Christian Protestors

(AINA) GMT 10-10-2011 5:36:21 -- For the second time in five days military and police forces forcibly dispersed Coptic protesters. 35 Copts were killed today and over 300 injured. The numbers could rise dramatically as many bodies are still unidentified and disfigured beyond recognition. The dead and injured have been transported to the Coptic Hospital in Cairo. Bodies of 4 Copts were found in buildings and taken to the public morgue, reported al-Ahram Daily.

There were discrepancies between reports from the official State-owned TV and independent TV stations. Al-Hayat confirmed that army armored vehicles went into Maspero "in a strange way" and ran over the protesters. A video clip of the armored vehicles running amok through the 150,000 protesters was shown on Al-Arabia TV. Egyptian State-run TV said that Coptic protesters killed 3 soldiers and injured 20. They gave no numbers for the fallen or injured Copts. They also said that the Copts had weapons. This was refuted by Coptic priests and activists. Nader Shoukry, Coptic activist and journalist, said "We only had wooden crosses."

"Today occurred a massacre of the Copts," said Coptic priest, Father Filopateer Gamil in a telephone conversation with CTV Coptic Channel. "I was an eyewitness to all what happened."

According to witnesses, the army forces were waiting for the Copic rally to arrive at Maspero, near the state television building. "They arranged a trap for us," said Father Filopateer. "As soon as we arrived they surrounded us and started shooting live ammunition randomly at us. Then the armored vehicles arrived and ran over protesters."

Father Filopateer said he saw army police and affiliated thugs torching police cars, to later blame it on the Copts. He believes that the assault on the Copt was preplanned.

Copts announced a few days ago that they would stage a rally to protest the torching of the church in the village of Elmarinab in Edfu, Aswan (AINA 10-1-2011), as well as the brutal attack on the Coptic rally in Maspiro on October 4 (AINA 10-9-2011). Rallies were to be staged in Cairo, Aswan, Minya, Beni-Suef, Assiut, Suez and Alexandria.

"When we announced this peaceful rally we made it understood that it will be from 5-8pm and no sit-in and no blocking of traffic," said Ihab Aziz, Coptic-American activist, who was one of the organizers.

Aziz said that the procession started today at the Christian populated district of Shubra and went to Maspero, in front of the TV building, on the river Nile. On their way, some Muslims fired live ammunition over their heads to terrorize them and some bricks were hurled at them. By the time they arrived to Maspero there were nearly 150,000 protesters. "The army and police were waiting for us about 200 meters away from the Maspero TV building," said Aziz. "They started firing at us before two army armored vehicles came at great speed and drove into the crowds, going backwards and forwards, mowing people under their wheels." He said he saw at least 20 dead Copts around him.

"The most horrible scene was when one of the vehicles ran over a Copt's head, causing his brain to explode and blood was all over the place," recalled Aziz. he held out his hand, showing two bullets in his palm. "We got a clear message today that we are no first class citizens."

The same description of events was confirmed by Nader Shoukry. He said that when the Copts were trapped by the army forces, some threw themselves in the Nile and some just fainted seeing other people being run-over in front of their eyes. Copts ran to hide in the neighboring buildings, but the police dragged them out and assaulted them.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, who was at the procession, was shot in the leg.

Michael Munier, head of El Hayat (Life) Party, said that what happened to the Copts today was a massacre. He asked why do the authorities kill the Copts who were protesting peacefully for their rights, while at the same time when Salafists blocked the trains in Qena for 10 days protesting against a Copt being nominated for governor of Qena, no one touched them?

"People are being prosecuted, including former President Mubarak, in courts presently because they killed demonstrators on January 28. Now the military police is doing the same to the Copts," said Shoukry.

A curfew has been announced tonight in several Cairo streets.

By Mary Abdelmassih

Source:Assyrian International News Agency

Pope leads Maspero victims' funeral

Pope Shenouda III meets with a group of bishops, in a previously arranged meeting, to discuss last night's violent clashes

Cairo, Monday 10 Oct 2011: Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Church, will lead the prayers in today's funeral of the those killed last night in Maspero clashes between the army and protesters.
The cermony will take place in Abbasseya Catherdral where thousands of Copts have gathered since the early morning waiting for the arrival of more than 20 coffins from the Coptic Hospital, one kilometre away.
Three coffins have so far arrived at the cathedral, with others expected shortly.
Earlier today Pope Shenouda discussed last night's clashes at Maspero with a group of bishops of the Holy Synod, the highest Coptic entity in Egypt, in a previously scheduled meeting that was supposed to discuss periodical issues in the Church.
The Coptic Church is yet to release a statement on the violence.

Source: Ahram Online



ANTELIAS -His Holiness Aram I Catholicos of Cilicia will pay a Pontifical visit to Armenian community under the jurisdiction of Western Prelacy from 5-25 October 2011.

Syriac Christians to get first church in Istanbul

Vercihan Ziflioğlu
Hürriyet Daily News (Wednesday, October 5, 2011)

ISTANBUL- Turkey’s Syriac Christian community has secured approval from officials for the construction of its first church. The church, planned to be constructed in the Yeşilköy neighborhood, is expected to host 17,000 Syriacs who live in Istanbul

After years of tussling and hairsplitting, Turkey’s Syriac Christian community has secured approval from both the prime minister and the president for the construction of its first church in the Yeşilköy neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul.

“Half of our community lives in and around Yeşilköy. We rent churches for Sunday rites, but we can only start morning mass at 11:30, whereas we are supposed to finish our Sunday rites before 10:30 in accordance with our tradition,” Kenan Altınışık, a prominent Syriac community leader, told the Hürriyet Daily News via e-mail.

The church site will be allocated to the ancient community by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, while construction expenses will be paid for by the Syriacs. An official from Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Hürriyet Daily News that they are searching for a suitable location for the new church.

The church architecture is planned to bear traces of the Syriac’s thousands-of-years-old culture, while the construction is set to begin as soon as suitable lands are allotted.

Community representatives held a series of talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül and EU Minister Egemen Bağış regarding their problems concerning the new church, including the allocation of land for its construction, Altınışık said.

“Afterward, we also met with the head of the Istanbul Metropolitan Construction Affairs Committee upon a directive issued by the Istanbul metropolitan mayor,” he said, adding they have no communication problems.

“We presented several files to the head of the construction affairs committee and he offered a few places, but they were not suitable for us,” said Altınışık, a businessman and head of the Syriac community’s Foundation for the Church of Mother Mary, which is located in the Tarlabaşı neighborhood in central Istanbul.

The community holds the title deed to the Church of Mother Mary and the metropolitan center that houses it, Altınışık said, adding that about 17,000 Syriacs live in Istanbul with scant numbers still living in the southeast as well.

A metropolitan center acts as a higher institution for an orthodox church. Many of Turkey’s Syriacs migrated to Europe during the mid-1980s, when there was political turmoil in the southeast.



Antiochian Syriac Orthodox Church (Rebel faction) stopped all their operations in India

Chandai, France: Rebel faction of Antiochian Syriac Orthodox Church of Europe headed by His Eminence Mor Severius Moses stopped all their operations in India and canceled all the dioceses in Kerala. The Holy Synod that took place in Chandai, France from 21 to 22 of September 2011 has passed these decisions. Here are some of the decisions of the Holy Synod and the pastoral letter of the Primate



Kolencherry Church row: Rebel Jacobite Plea for status quo dismissed

HC adjourns Kolenchery Church case to Nov 2

KOCHI, 30th September 2011: The Kerala High Court has denied a petition by the Rebel Jacobite Syrian Christian faction (dissident Patriarchal group) to maintain the status quo of rights at the disputed Kolencherry St Peters’and St Paul’s church. The High Court on 30th September 2011 adjourned the Kolanchery Church case to November 2 after recording submissions by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Rebel Jacobite faction that they will participate in the negotiations with the government through its subcommittee.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and C T Ravikumar passed the order while considering a petition filed by the Rebel Jacobite faction challenging the order of Additional District Court granting permission to Orthodox Church for administration of the Kolenchery church and a chapel at Kottoor.

The court also urged the parties to do the needful to come to a peaceful solution through reconciliation. To enable the process, the parties will maintain good relationship even at individual level, the court said.

Meanwhile, the government submitted that the state has no particular interest in either of the two factions and the utmost importance that the state would give is to ensure that peace and tranquility prevail and law and order is maintained. This is the first among the foremost duties of the state.
The court recorded the government’s submission. “The peaceful modes of conciliation of such litigation should be the first priority rather than carrying an adjudicatory process,” the court said.

Source: Express News Service

Court Order.