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Bishops in southern Mexico face threats from organized criminal groups

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Catholic News Service

 

MEXICO CITY - Bishops in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero have suffered threats from organized criminal groups as they serve a region rife with drug cartel activities and parishes located in impoverished indigenous communities where people eke out existences by cultivating opium poppies.

Bishop Maximino Miranda Martinez of Ciudad Altamirano was robbed of his vehicle after encountering a roadblock manned by an armed group in the violent Tierra Caliente region. Bishop Dagoberto Sosa Arriaga of Tlapa, meanwhile, was asked to pay extortion, but escaped making payment as those making the demands were run off by rivals. Read more »

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Church leaders welcome leaked HHS draft lifting contraceptive mandate

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON — A leaked draft rule from the Department of Health and Human Services exempting religious groups from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act was welcomed by church officials and attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the groups that challenged the mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a June 1 statement that the leaked draft has “yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication,” but it provides encouraging news.

“Relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcomed,” he said. Read more »

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Defending sacredness of life offers service to everyone, pope says

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Upholding the sacredness of human life becomes concrete when generations work together to serve everyone: the poor, disabled, orphans, migrants, the unborn and the elderly, Pope Francis said.

Such work is demanding and complicated, but “only by strengthening your association and inviting other families to join with you, will the task become less arduous, since union makes for strength,” he told members of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe June 1. The group was holding a meeting in Rome to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Read more »

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Don’t be overly harsh on youth; they have much to give, pope says

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY  — Young people often are judged too easily, even though with their limitations they are still a much needed and valuable part of the world, Pope Francis said.

Do not forget how God often chose the smallest, because proclaiming the Gospel “is not based on the greatness of human strength, but rather on the willingness to let oneself be guided by the gift of the Spirit,” he said June 1. Read more »

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Three-run sixth pushes Sals past Hodgson, into baseball semifinals

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Salesianum and Hodgson engaged in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel when the teams met in state baseball tournament quarterfinal action on May 31, but the Sals’ bats came through late in a 4-2 victory. Sallies moves on to face top-seeded Conrad on Thursday night at Frawley Stadium.

The 13th-seeded Silver Eagles scratched out a run in the top of the fourth, and with the way their pitcher, William Hart, was dealing, it appeared that lone tally might be enough. But No. 5 Salesianum rebounded to tie the game in the fifth and scored three times in the bottom of the sixth. That was enough to get the victory. Read more »

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Christians share hope, not ‘vinegar of bitterness,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to be “sowers of hope,” consoling and defending the poor and anyone in need, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets artists from Cirque du Soleil during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 31. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets artists from Cirque du Soleil during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 31. (CNS/Paul Haring)

As Christians prepared to celebrate Pentecost June 4, Pope Francis used his weekly general audience May 31 to speak about the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the hope of believers and to send them forth to instill hope in others.

Sowing bitterness or perplexity, he said, “isn’t Christian and if you do this, you aren’t Christian. Sow hope. Spread the oil of hope, diffuse the perfume of hope and not the vinegar of bitterness and hopelessness.”

In his Letter to the Romans (15:13), St. Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Having an abundance of hope, Pope Francis said, means not only hoping that when life is over one will be with God. It also means having the strength today to continue hoping “even when there is less human reason for hoping.”

“Hope truly is like a sail,” the pope said. “It gathers the wind of the Spirit and transforms it into a driving force that pushes the boat out to sea or to the shore, depending on circumstances.”

“It pushes us to go forward, always forward,” he said. The Holy Spirit “makes us feel like pilgrims and strangers and does not allow us to sit back and become a sedentary people.”

Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit as a “paraclete,” a provider of consolation and a defense, the pope said, and those who have been blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in turn called to console and defend others.

“Console and defend like the Holy Spirit does for each of us who are here in the square. Console and defend,” he said. “We must be the same for the neediest, the discarded, those who need it most, those who suffer most. Console and defend.”

Saying, “This seems strange, but it’s true,” Pope Francis noted how St. Paul also taught that the Holy Spirit gives hope to all of creation, which is “groaning in labor pains” but expectant in hope. “This pushes us to respect creation: one cannot sully a painting without offending the artist who created it.”

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Catholic bishops of Maryland address immigration issue

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A call to compassion, prudence and cooperation from the Catholic Bishops of Maryland

The issue of immigration continues to raise controversy at both the national and state level, often spurring passionate debate that offers little hope for reconciliation and resolution. This situation urgently calls for the Catholic Church

The Catholic bishops in Maryland on May 30 issued a joint statement calling for all people of faith and good will to come together in a spirit of compassion, prudence and cooperation in addressing the issue of immigration. The bishops also urge state and local elected officials to consider several guiding principles when determining the appropriate relationship between federal immigration officials and local law enforcement. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) See USCCB-MIGRATION-HOPE Jan. 6, 2017.

The Catholic bishops in Maryland on May 30 issued a joint statement, “Addressing Immigration in Maryland, calling for all people of faith and good will to come together in a spirit of compassion, prudence and cooperation in addressing the issue of immigration. 
(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

and all people of faith and good will to come together in a spirit of compassion, prudence, and cooperation to address the challenges faced by immigrants, elected officials, law enforcement and our communities as a whole. The complexity of federal immigration enforcement policies and their effect at local levels is of particular concern. In Maryland, this is especially the case in light of the unsuccessful efforts to pass state legislation aimed at identifying uniform state parameters for cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. As more and more local governments in our state take up this issue moving forward, we, the Catholic bishops of Maryland, urge all Marylanders to consider the following principles as a basis for engaging in dialogue as we work toward the common good.

Let us be guided by the words of Pope Francis, who in his historic address to the U.S. Congress reminded us: “… if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us give opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”

We urge state and local elected officials and lawmakers at the executive, legislative and judicial levels to enact and uphold immigration policies that:

  • Respect the spirit of our country’s Fourth Amendment protection against apprehension and searches of persons or homes without probable cause, and against detention beyond normal criminal procedures, while at the same time respecting the necessary role of law enforcement to uphold laws and policies that keep our communities safe.
  • Give priority to ensuring the integrity of families and the ability of working parents to support and care for their children.
  • Build trust with our immigrant communities by establishing a
    clear division of duties between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents so that immigrants feel safe reporting crimes and cooperating in police investigations.
  • Create safe environments by enforcing clearly established consequences for criminal violations of the law.
  • Reduce fear among our immigrant communities by protecting their ability to congregate and move freely at their churches, schools and other community gathering places.

We urge Maryland’s Catholics, other faith communities and all people of good will to:

  • Respect differences of opinion on this issue in a spirit of listening and understanding rather than accusation and name-calling.
  • Engage in the political process and communicate your opinions to your elected officials. We encourage you neither to shy away from the political arena, nor to allow partisan and hyperbolic factions to dominate the political debate on immigration.
  • Seek to learn more about the root causes of immigration and the challenges immigrants face in navigating our country’s complex immigration system.
  • Develop personal relationships with immigrants in your communities and learn firsthand about their hopes and dreams, fears and sorrows.

In closing, we offer a word of hope to our immigrant brothers and sisters who have come to Maryland in search of a better life.

We pray that you will find in the Catholic Church and many other communities in our state places of welcome, fellowship and support. We pledge through our parishes and institutions to minister to you as you learn a new language; as you seek employment, shelter, food, clothing and healthcare; and as you celebrate your faith in a loving God. We thank you for your inspiring example of fortitude, industriousness, and strong family values, and for your contribution to the qualities of life that truly define the greatness of America. May the grace of God bless you and bless our work together to build communities of peace, prosperity and friendship.

In addition to Bishop W. Francis Malooly of the Diocese of Wilmington, the Catholic bishops of Maryland include:

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker of Baltimore; Auxiliary Bishop Mark E. Brennan of Baltimore;

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Washington; Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington and Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr. of Washington.

 

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Pope, Trudeau discuss reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous people

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he asked Pope Francis to help Canadians “move forward on a real reconciliation” with the country’s indigenous people “by issuing an apology” on behalf of the Catholic Church for its role in harming their communities.

Pope Francis meets Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a private audience at the Vatican May 29. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis meets Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a private audience at the Vatican May 29. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The prime minister spoke to a handful of reporters in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park May 29 after having had a 36-minute private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

“He reminded me that his entire life has been dedicated to supporting marginalized people in the world, fighting for them,” the prime minister said, adding the pope said that “he looked forward to working with me and with the Canadian bishops to figure out a path forward together.”

The 2015 report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which focused on past treatment of the indigenous communities and concrete steps for a future of greater inclusion, included a recommendation that the pope come to Canada to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church for its participation in the residential schools for indigenous children.

While the idea behind the schools was to promote the greater integration of indigenous communities into modern Canadian life, the schools, many run by Catholic religious orders, led to a situation in which many children were torn from their families, lost their native language and cultures and often suffered abuse.

Trudeau told reporters he invited the pope to go to Canada “in the coming years,” but added no further details about such a trip.

The Vatican meeting, Trudeau said, was an opportunity to have “a deeply personal and wide-ranging, thoughtful conversation with the leader of my own faith.”

For its part, the Vatican issued a statement saying that the prime minister’s meetings with the pope and with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, included “the themes of integration and reconciliation, as well as religious freedom and current ethical issues.”

Trudeau, who is Catholic, and the bishops of Canada work closely on fighting climate change and on welcoming and assisting refugees, especially from Syria. However, the bishops have sharp differences with the prime minister over a variety of issues related to the sanctity of human life and the family.

In early March Trudeau’s government announced it would “invest” $650 million (US$483 million) over three years to provide abortion and other services in the developing world. The president of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, reacted by calling the policy “a reprehensible example of Western cultural imperialism.”

The bishops also have been working diligently to promote palliative care and a recognition of the sacredness of life of those who are dying as well as the right of medical personnel to conscientiously object to participating in practices they oppose on religious grounds. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2015 that people who are “grievously and irremediably ill” have a right to medical assistance in dying.

After the closed-door meeting, Trudeau introduced his wife, Sophie Gregoire, and his delegation to the pope before exchanging gifts with him.

Trudeau gave the pope an edition of the six-volume “Relations des Jesuites de la Nouvelle-France,” a collection of 17th-century reports from Jesuit missionaries in what is now Canada. Trudeau told the Jesuit pope the volumes are an “essential tool for historians” in understanding the early history of the country. He also gave the pope framed samples of a Jesuit’s dictionary of Montagnais Innu, the language of an indigenous community in Canada.

Pope Francis, appreciating the gift, told the prime minister, “it was a custom of the Jesuits” to compile such dictionaries when they began missions in new lands.

The pope gave Trudeau the gold medallion minted for the fourth year of his pontificate (2016-17), which features an “embrace” as “a symbol of forgiveness, joy and mutual acceptance,” according to the Vatican’s description. It also refers to the passage from Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Pope Francis is aware of the current situation in Canada and the concerns of the bishops on all the issues mentioned by Trudeau to the press and in the Vatican communique. From March to May Pope Francis spent hours listening to the bishops, who made their ad limina visits to the Vatican in four groups.

While all the bishops of Canada have not formally invited the pope to Canada, during the visits several of the groups explained the situation of Canada’s indigenous peoples, the history of the residential schools and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Some of the bishops said they were told Pope Francis would consider a trip in 2018 or 2019. A final decision would require input from the whole Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in dialogue with the Vatican.

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In Genoa, pope condemns ‘speculation economy’ and refugee bans

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Condemning an economy that encourages speculation more than entrepreneurship, warning priests and religious that they share responsibility for the vocations crisis and telling young people they are right to be puzzled by nations that close their doors to people fleeing persecution, Pope Francis spent a busy day in Genoa.

Besides being packed with pastoral appointments, the pope’s visit to the northern Italian port city May 27 also was emotional. He told workers in a struggling steel plant that it was from the Genoa port that his father and grandparents immigrated to Argentina.

Pope Francis laughs as he speaks with a man in the Shrine of Our Lady of the Watch during his May 27 pastoral visit in Genoa, Italy. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

Pope Francis laughs as he speaks with a man in the Shrine of Our Lady of the Watch during his May 27 pastoral visit in Genoa, Italy. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

Pope Francis’ daylong visit began with an intense morning of answering questions: first, from workers and business owners gathered at the steel plant; then from priests and religious in the city’s cathedral; and, finally, from young people gathered at a Marian shrine overlooking the city and the sea.

The questions ended when he had lunch, featuring traditional Genovese pesto, with 120 refugees, migrants and homeless people. He also visited a pediatric hospital before celebrating Mass near the port with some 80,000 people, according to local officials.

Starting his visit with the workers, business leaders and unemployed, Pope Francis told them that for those who are able to work, having a job increases dignity, bringing a way to support their family and contribute to society. For that reason, he said, government policies should not be so much about ensuring everyone gets a monthly check of some sort, but that everyone who can work can find a decent job.

“It must be clear that the true objective to reach is not an income for all, but a job for all,” he said.

A good entrepreneur, the pope said, is no stranger to hard work, and he knows his employees because he works with them and alongside them.

Unfortunately today, he said, “an illness of the economy is the progressive transformation of entrepreneurs into speculators.”

A business owner who uses his business for speculation “does not love his company (and) does not love his workers, but sees the company and the workers only as means to a profit.” the pope said. “Firing, closing (or) moving the company creates no problems for him,” because such a person is interested only in the money.

Pope Francis also warned the workers and business leaders against the highly touted idea of “meritocracy” in the workplace and the economy. The idea, he said, takes a positive, “merit,” and “perverts it” by mistaking as merits the “gifts” of talent, education and being born to a family that is not poor.

“Through meritocracy, the new capitalism gives a moral cloak to inequality,” because seeing gifts as merit, it distributes advantages or keeps in places disadvantages accordingly, he said. Under such a system, “the poor person is considered undeserving and, therefore, guilty. And if poverty is the fault of the poor, then the rich are exonerated from doing anything.”

The obligation to do something also was on the pope’s mind when he moved to the cathedral for the meeting with bishops, priests and men and women religious.

He told pastors their day should look like the days Jesus had: time in prayer, but mostly time spent on the road and with a crowd. “This means being close to people and to their problems. He didn’t hide.”

Priests, he said, also must take care to nurture a sense of brotherhood with other priests, praying for them, helping them when they are in trouble, sharing experiences and even having debates about the best way to handle situations they all face.

“We run the risk of creating the image that a priest knows everything and has no need for anyone to tell him anything,” the pope said. “Today kids would say, ‘This is a Google priest or a Wikipedia priest!’”

Disagreements are natural and not something to fear, he said. The late Cardinal Giovanni Canestri of Genoa used to say, “The church is like a river and what is important is being in the river.”

“If you are in the center or more to the right or more to the left, but in the river, this is legitimate variety,” the pope said. “So many times we want the river to narrow only to our side and we condemn the others; that’s not fraternity.”

Asked about the dropping vocation rate, Pope Francis said one can’t ignore the impact on vocations of Catholics having smaller families than in the past. But, also, he said, priests and religious themselves must look at the kind of witness they give young people.

“We have to give a witness that shows we are happy and that we will end our lives happy that Jesus chose us,” he said. When a priest or religious has no joy, “a young person will see them and say, ‘I don’t want to live like that.’ It pushes people away.”

Joy and love were still on his mind when he met young people from the Archdiocese of Genoa who had spent a year as missionaries to their peers, to people on the streets and those in difficulty.

To fulfill Jesus’ command to share the Gospel with others requires learning how to see them with “the eyes of the heart,” listening carefully and loving them, he said.

“Love is being able to take a hand that is dirty and the ability to look in the eyes of those who are in distress and say, ‘For me, you are Jesus.’ This is the beginning of every mission, this love with which I must go out and speak.”

If one cannot love the people one meets on mission, he said, “it’s better to stay home and pray the rosary.”

To be Christians who make a difference, he said, young people must have the same qualities as Genoa native Christopher Columbus and the other explorers: the ability “to look beyond your own nose” and the courage to set off, not always accepting what other people say is “normal,” the pope told them.

Is it normal, he asked, that so many refugees and migrants have such difficult lives when they finally reach a safe country? “Is it normal that the Mediterranean is becoming a cemetery” with refugees drowning?

“Is it normal that in the face of someone’s pain, our attitude is to close the doors?” the pope asked. “If it’s not normal, get involved. ”

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Deadly attacks increase fears of Egypt’s Christians

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CAIRO — Christians in Egypt “are getting to this idea that we could be a martyr at any moment,” the spokesman for the nation’s Catholic bishops told Catholic News Service.

The spokesman, Father Rafic Greiche, also lamented the number of children killed in an attack on a bus carrying Coptic Orthodox Christians to St. Samuel Monastery in southern Egypt May 26.

The mother of one of the victims of an attack on a group of Coptic Christians that took place May 26 attends a funeral at the Sacred Family Church in Minya, Egypt, that same day. (CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

The mother of one of the victims of an attack on a group of Coptic Christians that took place May 26 attends a funeral at the Sacred Family Church in Minya, Egypt, that same day. (CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

At least 26 people, many of them children, were killed when masked assailants attacked the bus. Dozens of others were injured.

“It is too early to say who is behind it, but certainly terrorists, and the security forces are now scanning the area” to find the culprits, Tarek Attia, Interior Ministry official, told Sky News Arabia, an Arabic-language television station, May 26.

He said three cars carrying the masked gunmen had attacked the bus at roughly 10:30 a.m. in the southern governorate of Minya, a traditional stronghold of Egypt’s Christian community, which accounts for a tiny percent of the country’s mostly Sunni Muslim population.

At the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, expressing Pope Francis’ ‘prayers and solidarity after the “barbaric attack.”

“Mindful in a particular way of those children who have lost their lives, His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty. He assures their grieving families and all who have been injured of his ardent prayers, and he pledges his continued intercession for peace and reconciliation throughout the nation,” the telegram said.

The attack marked the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Coptic Christians, whose church was founded by St. Mark the Apostle in the first century, and whose community represents the largest of the Middle East’s Christian minorities.

On April 9, two suicide bombers attacked St. George’s Cathedral in Egypt’s northern city of Tanta and St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. Those attacks killed and maimed dozens in what was the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt’s recent history. A nationwide state of emergency has been in place since.

In a widely publicized visit to Egypt soon after the April attacks, Pope Francis addressed the terrorist violence carried out in the name of a fundamentalist reading of Islam. Pope Francis frequently has said there are more Christians being martyred today than during the persecutions of the church in the early centuries of Christianity. And, using the term “ecumenism of blood,” he has noted how Christians divided into churches and denominations are united in mourning for their members killed not because they are Orthodox or Catholic, but simply because they are Christian.

The pope paid tribute to the Coptic Orthodox Church’s modern martyrs, praying before a memorial in Cairo marking the place where 29 people were killed and 31 wounded in December by a suicide bomber. He told Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, “Your sufferings are also our sufferings.”

After the May 26 attack, the Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement saying, “We extend our condolences to all the affected families and are suffering with the entire country due to this evil and violence.”

“We hope for the necessary procedures to prevent these kinds of attacks, which degrade the image of Egypt and cause so much suffering to Egyptians,” the statement said.

Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria sent condolences to Pope Tawardros and “all families of all the martyrs,” reported the Egyptian paper, Al Masry al Youm.

Ashraf Sultan, Egyptian parliament spokesman, told Sky News Arabia, “This is an attack on the entire society and affects us all.”

Egypt’s top authority on Islam, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, said that “such attacks can never satisfy a Muslim or a Christian.”

In Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. Di Nardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the May attacks with previous attacks, noting that, again, children were murdered as they traveled to church.

“Though our grief is unbearable, our unity grows all the more strong. That unity is the way to peace,” he said, sending prayers and condolences to the Egyptians.

Other church leaders around the world also reacted. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed the condolences of churches in the Holy Land.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, offered prayers and said, “This attack reminds us again of the horrific persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and their courageous witness to their faith.”

An Egyptian Interior Ministry statement said unknown assailants driving three four-wheel-drive vehicles had attacked by “randomly shooting” the bus carrying the Copts, and that an official count of the final toll was underway.

Local media showed grainy images of bloody bodies strewn on sandy ground, indicating many of the slain had fled the bus trying to escape the assailants’ bullets.

Later, the media showed images of the wounded being taken to hospitals and reported that el-Sissi was calling for an emergency security meeting to address the attack. El-Sissi had instructed authorities to take all necessary measures to attend to the injured and arrest the assailants, the local media reported.

Asked about government assurances that security in the country would be tightened, Father Greiche told CNS: “It is now time for action, not just words.”

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