BY ED WEST
AT LEAST ONE person has died and up to 2,000 riot police called out in sectarian rioting in Alexandria after several Christians were stabbed, and one murdered, in attacks outside three different churches last Friday.
The unprovoked stabbing of the 73-year-old, allegedly by a Muslim man with mental illness, happened on the day that Western Christians celebrated Good Friday.
Sixteen people outside three Coptic churches in Egypt's. second city were targeted as the man, who is said to have schizophrenia, set about stabbing Christians at random.
The violence led to protests by Christians claiming that the police did not protect them, and by Sunday (Eastern Palm Sunday) these had developed into full-scale riots, with Molotov cocktails thrown by the crowd of 200 Christian men.
Police were recorded beating a Coptic boy, while later a Muslim mob charged at the authorities and despite a pro-unity march of 700 Christians and Muslims outside the Church of St Maximus on Sunday evening. fighting continued into the night.
At least one person died during the rioting. Ehab Sarni, a Copt who runs an
electric shop opposite the Church, saw his business looted and destroyed.
He said: "It was the Muslims and the police were collaborating with them. .
"I asked the police to help me, but they did not lift a finger."
Afterwards the authorities said that 40 people were injured and 80 arrested, while the alleged attacker from Friday was being kept under observation at a mental institution.
Coptic Christians comprise around 10 million of Egypt's 78 million populatibn and though interfaith relations are generally calm, they face discrimination in the areas of civil service, jobs and education.
Egyptian identity cards state the holder's religion, and Copts, most of whom are Orthodox, frequently claim that they are the victims of discrimination and abuse.
Alexandria has also become a stronghold for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, a political group with links to al-Qaeda.
Earlier this year four people were killed when Muslim fanatics attacked churches in Alexandria after a DVD deemed "offensive to Islam" was sold in the city, and as elsewhere in the Muslim world, Christians were deliberately targeted during protests against the Danish cartoon controversy. Pam. Pius xi i knew of Adolf Hitler's plot to kidnap him and prepared a letter of resignation to take effect if he was captured by the Nazis, according to the author of a new German book about the wartime Pontiff.
Werner Kaltefleiter and Hans Peter Oschwald, the authors of the new book, say that Pope Pius had signed the letter, which said that he would revert to the status of a cardinal if he was taken hostage, the Italian ANSA news agency reports. Excerpts from their forthcoming book have appeared in Bild, the German daily.
Fr Peter Gumpel, the Jesuit historian and postulator of the cause for the beatification of Pope Pius XII, said that the Pontiff had tentative plans to resign in case he was captured..
But Fr Crumpet was sceptical about the existence of a signed resignation letter. He said that a "verbal agreement" had been reached that Pius XII should step down if taken prisoner.
Kaltefleiter and Oschwald have investigated espionage efforts against the Vatican from the beginning of World War II to the present day.
The book deals with Nazi attempts to undermine the Catholic Church and with later, similar efforts by Communist regimes.
It is thought that Hitler planned to raid the Vatican with the objective of kidnapping the Pope.