Pope prays for peace in Egypt

February 8th, 2011 - 12:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Vatican City, Feb 8 (IANS/AKI) Stating that he was following the situation in Egypt, Pope Benedict XVI called for all sides to work for “the common good” as the country’s opposition remained divided over the demand that President Hosni Mubarak resign immediately rather than cling on to power until elections in September.During his Angelus address in St Peter’s Basilica Sunday, Benedict said he was currently “following the delicate situation in the dear nation of Egypt”.

“I ask God that that land, blessed by the presence of the Holy Family, may rediscover tranquillity and peaceful coexistence, in a shared commitment for the common good,” the pontiff stated.

Relations between the Vatican and Egypt last month became rocky following attacks on Christians in the Middle Eastern country.

On Jan 11, Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Holy See following remarks made by Benedict voicing support for minority Coptic Christians and urging better protection for them after the New Year’s Eve attack on a church in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria killed 23 people and injured 80.

Anti-government protesters have camped out in Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo, vowing to stay until Mubarak quits.

Mubarak, who has refused calls to step down before September polls, says he fears “chaos” would ensure and has tried to focus on restoring order and ending the country’s economic paralysis.

While banks have reopened, schools and the stock exchange remain closed, protesters prevented an important government building from reopening.

The protesters formed a human chain around the Mugamma - where people go to get official paperwork processed - to prevent it from opening, while the army looked on as it has been instructed not to use force.

Over the weekend, senior leaders of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement and other opposition groups held landmark talks with Egypt’s vice president and former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman which failed to end the protests.

Egyptian state TV said the participants had agreed to form a joint committee of judicial and political figures tasked with suggesting constitutional amendments.

But opposition leaders said they were sceptical of the government’s motives and the measures did not go far enough.

Clashes between anti- and pro- government forces in Cairo and other Egyptian cities have left some 300 people dead and about 4,000 more have been injured since the unrest broke out Jan 25, according to UN estimates.

–IANS/AKI
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