January 11, 2011 / 3:50 PM / 8 years ago

Egypt condemns Vatican criticism on minorities

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt recalled its Vatican ambassador Tuesday for consultation in Cairo after Pope Benedict urged governments in predominantly Muslim countries to do more to protect Christian minorities.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church Monday condemned attacks on churches that killed dozens of people in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, saying they showed the need to adopt effective measures to protect religious minorities.

“Egypt asked its ambassador in the Vatican to come to Cairo for consultation after the Vatican’s new statements that touch on Egyptian affairs and which Egypt considers an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“Cairo is keen to communicate with the Vatican after its statements following the terrorist incident in Alexandria that took place earlier this month.”

A New Year bombing outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria left 23 people dead and dozens injured and prompted demonstrations by both Christians and Muslims [ID:nLDE70318A]

Egyptian officials insist they are capable of protecting all citizens and said there are indications that “foreign elements” were behind the January 1 blast. An Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda threatened in November to attack Egyptian Christians.

Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s 79 million population which is mostly Sunni Muslim. Sectarian violence sometimes erupts over disputes on issues related to church building, religious conversions and interfaith relationships.

Early last year, a drive-by shooting killed six Christians and a Muslim policeman at a church in southern Egypt.

Reporting by Marwa Awad; Writing by Yasmine Saleh

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