Pope decries killing of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” said Pope Francis in an address to the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, expressing his sorrow at the murder of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya by Islamic State Militants.

“It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ,” he said, continuing, “As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”

The martyrs, who had been held captive for several weeks, were shown being murdered in a Islamic State video. In the video, the Copts are referred to as “crusaders”, with one of the militants pointing northward toward Italy and declaring, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission”.

The murdered Christians were abducted from the Libyan city of Sirte on December 31 and January 3, according to Badr Abdel Atty, speaking on behalf of Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. A section purporting to show the abductions features in the latest issue of Dabiq, the online propaganda magazine produced by Islamic State.

References to Rome and crusaders are typical of Islamic State rhetoric as revealed in Dabiq. A previous issue, bearing the title “The Failed Crusade” and featuring a photoshopped image of the St Peter’s Square obelisk surmounted by the Islamic State banner, quoted an Islamic State spokesman calling on militants to “be ready for the final campaign of the crusaders,” and addresses the West, saying, “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted.“

Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, says Pope Francis has made a telephone call to the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, to express “his profound sympathy in the pain of the Coptic Church for the recent barbaric murder of Coptic Christians by Islamic fundamentalists”.