The Egyptian government announced the recall of its ambassador to the Vatican on Tuesday to protest Pope Benedict XVI's recent appeal to world leaders to "protect" Christians in the Middle East in the wake of the New Year’s Eve church bombing in Alexandria.
On Monday, the pope renewed his call for the protection of Christians in both Egypt and Iraq, stressing that governments in the region were obliged to protect their Christian minorities following both the Alexandria church bombing and a November attack on a Baghdad church.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said Cairo had decided to recall Ambassador Lamia Mekhemar "in light of the latest Vatican statements." He went on to say that Egypt considered the papal comments "unacceptable interference in its internal affairs."
In a press statement, Zaki stressed Egypt's rejection of "any attempt to promote the so-called 'protection of Christians in the Middle East' based on the crime that took place in Alexandria." Egypt, he added, "will not allow any non-Egyptian parties to interfere in its internal affairs under any pretext."
Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb likewise rejected Benedict's statements.
"We appreciate what was said in His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's homily, in which he urged Middle Eastern governments to protect Christian minorities," al-Tayeb said, not without sarcasm, in a press statement. "But we interpret this as an assertion that the protection of Christians remains an internal affair."
He went on to describe the region's Christians as "citizens with full rights, just like any other citizens."
Translated from the Arabic Edition.