(from The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com) AP, CAIRO – Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after Pope Benedict XVI [urged] certain countries, including Egypt, [to] do more to ensure Christians can practice their faith without discrimination or violence, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The move came on the same day an off-duty policeman opened fire on a train in southern Egypt, killing a 71-year-old Christian man and wounding five others, including the victim’s wife and three other women, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement. All of the victims are Christian, the Ministry said.

Egypt’s decision to recall its envoy is seen as a response to a speech Monday to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican, in which Pope Benedict cited recent attacks on Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, and said these governments must take more effective measures to protect religious minorities. The Pope also asked that Pakistan repeal its blasphemy laws.

Hossam Zaki, a spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry described Pope Benedict’s remarks as “unacceptable” and charged him with interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

“Egypt will not allow non-Egyptians to interfere in its internal affairs under any pretext,” he said.

Egyptian ambassador Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar met with a top Vatican official Tuesday evening before traveling to Cairo, according to a statement by Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi sent to the Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Mekhemar was “assured the (Holy See) fully shares the worries and efforts of the (Egyptian) government aimed at avoiding an escalation of the conflict and religiously motivated tensions,” the statement said.

No motive was immediately known for the shooting Tuesday. The latest attack could spark a new wave of Christian rioting in a community still traumatized by a New Year’s suicide attack on a church that killed at least 21 worshippers as they were leaving Mass.

The bomb attack brought accusations by Egypt’s Christians that the government does not protect them and reopening long standing wounds over allegations of discrimination.

The Pope spoke out against the bombing and [asked for] better protection for Christians.

“In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities,” the Pope said.

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyib, imam of the Al-Azhar, the premier institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world blasted the pope’s remarks.

“Protection of Christians is an internal affair and should be carried out by the governments as they (the Christians) are their citizens like other citizens,” he said in a statement.

“We reiterate our rejection of foreign interference in the internal affairs of Arab and Islamic countries under whatever pretexts,” he added.

President Hosni Mubarak has repeatedly said that the government will do its utmost to protect Egypt’s Christians and has accused foreign groups of being behind the church attack.

Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  This is an Associated Press article.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  Visit the website at wsj.com.


1. Define recall as used in this article.

2. a) What is the Vatican?
b) Why did Egypt recall its ambassador from the Vatican? Be specific.

3. What did the Pope ask Pakistan specifically to do in his speech?

4. How did Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki respond to Pope Benedicts remarks on religious tolerance?

5. What accusations have Egypt’s Christians made after the suicide bomb attack that killed 21 Christians as they were leaving church?

6. a) How did Muslim leader Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyib of Al-Azhar, the leading Sunni Islamic institution, react to the Pope’s speech?
b) What do you think of the Imam’s reaction?

7. The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, made up of 1.147 billion members worldwide. (world population is approximately 6.8 billion)
Watch the Pope’s speech under “Resources” below the questions.  As the leader of the Catholic church worldwide, was the Pope right to urge leaders in his annual address to permit religious tolerance and protect Christians and religious minorities in their countries? Explain your answer.


Watch a video of the Pope’s speech below:

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