By John Newton Aid to the Church in Need
THE leader of Catholics in north-east
has said he and his faithful
will stand firm and continue undeterred despite an arson attack on a church and
the arrest of Christian evangelists. Libya
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Sylvester Magro of
described how the Church was providing “silent testimony” through its charitable
and pastoral activities. Benghazi
Asked about the torching of St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in
(14th March), he said: “No one was expecting a reaction like
Explaining the attack, the bishop said: “There was a protest in
Cairo [ ’s capital] and this looks like
a retaliation for that protest.” Egypt
The attack came in response to an anti-Libyan protest in
following the death of Ezzat Atallah, an
Egyptian Christian, aged 45. Cairo
Mr Atallah reportedly died of natural causes in a
prison on 10th March, after
being arrested with three other men in February on a charge of
He was suffering from a heart condition and had diabetes.
Bishop Magro described how – despite such setbacks – the Church was continuing its mission.
He said: “Notwithstanding the difficulties that may crop up every now and then, we strive to continue with our silent testimony of worship, of faith, of trust, of confidence and growth in the Word of God.
His comments come after reports of 48 Coptic Orthodox traders kidnapped late last month after complaints about their religious imagery on vendors’ boards and stalls in
In a video seized by police, the traders appear locked in a small room, watched over by men with long Salafist-style beards.
Many of those kidnapped have cuts, bruises and shaven heads.
The bishop, a member of the Franciscan order which has been working in the country since 1628, praised the work of the Sisters of Immaculate Conception of Ivrea who help poor Christians.
Most Catholics in
Libya are from
the Philippines or North Africa and many earn less than others in the
Bishop Magro who oversees the Apostolic Vicariate of Benghazi, said: “This apostolate run by Sisters from
provides the Church with a
living image of interesting itself in the poor, as Pope Francis said at his
“In all situations we try to help [using] the donations provided by the Holy Father himself – we have much pastoral work also and humanitarian or charitable activity.”
Aid to the Church in Need provided the vicariate with a vehicle enabling priests to offer Mass in remote areas at least twice a month.
Bishop Magro said: “Our Vicariate extends from Marsa al Burayqah Misratah on the gulf of Sirte up to Tubruq in the east, close to the Egyptian border, and the towns on the coast road, like Al Marj, Al Bayda, Tubruq itself, have Christian Catholic communities in each town and we are always travelling… to these mission stations.
“From Burayqah to
Benghazi there are 300km roughly from
Tubruq there are 500km, so 800 in all, and that makes the car work very
The bishop thanked Aid to the Church in Need for its support.
He said: “I would like to thank all the benefactors that contribute through ACN because it is only through them that we can operate in our mission.
“And may God reward all those who generously donate their support – because their names are known to him alone – but we offer our prayers in supplication to the Lord for their intentions.”