Vatican Expresses Hope For Egypt

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican’s ambassador to Egypt said he hoped the country’s future would include greater social justice and greater freedom for all of the country’s people.

In an interview with Vatican Radio Feb. 11, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald said he hoped the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is running Egypt, would follow the direction of constitutional reform and “will also respond to the other demands of the population with regard to social justice and with regard to political liberties as well. ”

Archbishop Fitzgerald, the Vatican nuncio in Cairo, said that even before President Hosni Mubarak resigned Feb. 11, the Egyptian leader had given his vice president the task of studying various articles of the constitution with a view of amending them in response to protesters’ demands for greater democracy.

Mubarak’s promises of reform were not enough for protesters, and he was forced to hand over power to the military and step down.

As Mubarak left the capital and the military took over, the nuncio told Vatican Radio, “We are still in an uncertain position, but the people are very happy — they are rejoicing — and we hope that this euphoria will produce a moment of solidarity for the people in this country.”

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced Feb. 13 a series of steps needed for a democratic transition, including the dissolution of Mubarak’s parliament, a suspension of the constitution with the promise of establishing a committee to rewrite it, and the promise of elections in six months.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, told Vatican Radio Feb. 14 that he hoped the patient commitment to nonviolence and democracy that motivated the protesters would continue to inspire changes in Egypt for the good of all of its citizens, including the Christian minority.

“These changes could signal situations of difficulty, but they also can represent seeds of hope for a new situation,” the cardinal said.

Egypt’s 8 million to 10 million Coptic Orthodox and up to 250,000 Coptic Catholics have a right to express their opinions and hopes in the process of rewriting the nation’s constitutions, he said.

“I certainly think they should be listened to, and I also hope that their opinions will be accepted. I also hope that in the constitution there are those fundamental principles that affirm the dignity of men and women, the freedom of all and civic coexistence with respect for others and respect for the law,” Cardinal Sandri said.

“I really hope the wisdom that the Egyptians have and that they showed during the demonstrations, which were conducted in a peaceful way and in which they expressed their desire for change, will enlighten their future steps,” he said.

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