Cardinal Sandri: Egypt Is Called to Greatness

Says This Is the Moment for Christians to Step Forward

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches is affirming that Egypt is called to be a great nation in Africa in relation to its neighboring countries.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri expressed this belief in an interview on Vatican Radio, while commenting on the Feb. 11 resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The prelate expressed the hope that the country's present authorities will commit themselves more than ever to "protect and defend the country's inhabitants, in particular the Christians, against insecurity, attacks and persecutions that there might be against them."

He noted that these political changes could presage "a hope for the people and the nation."

The cardinal spoke in particular about the fate of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which has some 8-10 million faithful, and the Coptic Catholic Church, which has between 200,000 and 250,000 faithful.

"For the Coptic Church, both Orthodox as well as Catholic, the present is a moment of great importance," Cardinal Sandri affirmed, "as it allows Orthodox Copts to express themselves as Christians, and our Catholics Copts as Catholics, with the hope that all will lead to tranquility, to a common life, to the quest for the common good for all Egyptians, in order to constitute a society worthy of man, more just and which gives everyone the opportunity to take part in public life."

The cardinal expressed the hope that the Egyptian constitution will include "fundamental principles" such as "the dignity of man and woman, liberty for all, a common life in respect of others and of the law."

When asked about the risk that Egypt will become a new Iraq, the prelate said that "it wouldn't be desirable to repeat a new Iraq, that is, a new situation that pushes Christians to exodus, to the exodus of those who are not recognized as citizens equal to the others."

"In the case of Iraq, this insecurity has driven the exodus, and to these departures that impoverish the nation," he stated. "The country, without Christians, is no longer the same."

Cardinal Sandri underlined the hope that "this won't happen in Egypt."

He continued: "I also hope that the wisdom of the Egyptians -- who have demonstrated it during all the manifestations they have carried out in a peaceful way, in which they have expressed their desire for change -- will allow for the construction of a great Egypt, as it has been during all its history."

The prelate concluded by expressing the hope that during this process of transition and in the future, the present authorities will "seek to protect and defend all the inhabitants of the country, in particular the Christians, from insecurity, from attacks or the persecutions that might be committed against them as was manifested in the attacks, particularly against the Coptic Church of Alexandria."