-- ZENIT.org News Agency
No Incidents of Violence during Coptic Christmas Celebrations
Spokesman Notes Atmosphere of Stability Compared to Previous Years
CAIRO, January 10, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Initial reports out of Egypt show that Christmas, celebrated by Coptic Christians on January 7, has come and gone without incidents of violence.
In recent years, violent attacks have been made against Churches during the Christmas celebrations, most notably in January 2011 when 24 were killed by a car bomb as they left a Church service in Alexandria.
According to reports, there was a higher turnout during the Christmas liturgies this year as compared to previous years.
"There was an atmosphere of stability and that is why this year was different to last year," said Fr. Rafik Greiche, media representative for the Coptic Catholic Bishops' Conference, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN. "Even though there was a little bit of fear among the people, they were not outright afraid."
"There were no attacks [on churches] - no incidents at all," he told the Catholic aid agency. "We do feel very encouraged."
Fr. Greiche noted that, under President Mohammed Morsi's regime, there was a lack of Christian symbols during the Christmas season. In contrast, there were Christmas trees and carols being sung.
He said Christmas this year "had a new flavour because we had no Morsi."
In August 2013, Muslim Brotherhood supporters of the former Egyptian president blamed Christians for his ousting. The wave of violence with followed resulted in some 50 Churches being attacked or destroyed.
Fr. Greiche told ACN that Copts were delighted by Government ministers' recognition of the Christmas celebrations, noting that Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour met Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II at his cathedral in Alexandria on 6 January, Coptic Christmas Eve.
"This was something entirely new and we very much hope that the move by the President sets a precedent," the Catholic spokesman said.
The move was significant, he explained, because some Islamists, such as Salafists, consider it forbidden for Muslims to greet Christians and other non-Muslims to mark their feast days.
On January 14, Egypt will vote in a referendum on a revised constitution which will replace the one ratified by the Morsi regime.
"The new constitution is certainly a more civil one than its predecessor - there are many articles about freedom of speech and freedom of conscience."
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