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Egypt pope blasts Morsi over cathedral clashes

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Egypt's Pope Tawadros II accused President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday of "negligence" over his response to deadly clashes outside Cairo's Coptic cathedral, the worst sectarian crisis since the Islamist took power in June.

Morsi telephoned Tawadros after Sunday's violence, which saw crowds pelt mourners with stones after they emerged from a funeral service for slain Copts.

Shocking television images showed police fire tear gas at St Mark's Cathedral -- symbol of the Coptic community, which has long complained of discrimination and been the target of frequent attacks by Muslims.

Morsi "promised to do everything to protect the cathedral but in reality we don't see this," Tawadros told the private ONTV channel in a call-in.

When asked why, Tawadros said he believed "it comes under the category of negligence and poor assessment of events."

Two people died in Sunday's clashes, which erupted after the funeral service of four Christians killed in a gunbattle with Muslims in a town north of Cairo in which one Muslim also died.

Tawadros said the church had never in its history witnessed this level of attack.

"This flagrant assault on a national symbol, the Egyptian church, has never been subjected to this in 2,000 years," Tawadros said.

He called on authorities to take a strong position against such kinds of attacks.

"There has to be a clear stance from the state... because matters now have crossed the limits of freedom of expression and have reached a level of chaos," he said.

"Some officials have expressed kind feelings; these feelings are not enough at all," he continued.

Following the attack, Morsi said: "I consider any attack on the cathedral an attack against myself," and proposed to revive the defunct Justice and Equality Committee, which was established to look at promoting citizenship and equality.

Tawadros said the "committees and the groups, we have had enough of them. We want action and not just words. Committees are formed every day but there is no work taking place on the ground."

On Tuesday night, the presidency announced, a delegation led by Morsi's deputy for political affairs Bakinam el-Sharkawi had visited the Coptic authorities.

Their mission was to "transmit a clear message, to make it known that the Coptic church is an Egyptian symbol that no one may attack, and that the law will be applied and the authors of violent attacks must pay the consequences."

The presidency statement said they did not meet with Tawadros, who was not in Cairo at the time.

Earlier, Hani Sobhi, a young Copt, explained that live television coverage of the funeral service during which Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood was booed had been the spark for the violence.

"Inside the cathedral we chanted 'Down with the Brotherhood rule' and that was aired live on television. At the exit, the people were ready and waiting for us," he said.

Christians account for between six and 10 percent of Egypt's population of 84 million people.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130409/egypt-pope-blasts-morsi-over-cathedral-clashes-0