Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Former head of Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt dies at age 89

Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas (on photo right), the retired head of Egypt's largest Catholic community, died in Cairo Jan. 20, just a few days after his 89th birthday.

For almost 20 years before retiring in 2006, the former patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church led a community of about 200,000 members, a small fraction of Egypt's total population of more than 80 million people.

Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, but Christians have maintained a presence there since the time of the apostles.

Despite sporadic violence by Muslim extremists in the past -- including attacks against Christians in some parts of the country -- Cardinal Ghattas consistently played down disputes and highlighted interreligious cooperation.

For example, when 20 Christians were killed in a southern Egyptian village in 2000, he did not use the deaths to press Christian complaints about religious discrimination. Instead, he later praised all sides for restoring calm to the village and defusing the violence.

More on this on Catholic News Service, in a story by Carol Glatz.

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