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Pope Francis has spoken out about the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya. “Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’ Pope Francis said at the conclusion of an audience Monday with the moderator of the Church of Scotland. “They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians.”
“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” the Pope said. “It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood.”
The Islamic State released a video released on Sunday show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, making good on a promise Sunday that his country would respond to the deaths, ordered airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Libya. Speaking on national television hours after the release of the video, Sisi said Cairo would choose the “necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings,” according to Reuters.
Egypt’s state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming that 21 Egyptian Christians believed to be held by Islamic State were dead…. The footage showing the deaths of the Egyptians appeared on the Twitter feed of a website that supports Islamic State, which has seized parts of Iraq and Syria and has also beheaded Western hostages.
In the video, militants in black marched the captives, dressed in orange jump suits, to a beach the group said was near Tripoli. They were forced down onto their knees, then beheaded. A caption on the five-minute video read: “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.” Before the killings, one of the militants stood with a knife in his hand and said: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”
As the Associated Press pointed out, the alleged killings took place less than 500 miles from the southern tip of Italy, raising the possibility that the Islamic militant group has established a direct affiliate within striking distance of Europe. One of the militants in the video makes direct reference to that possibility, saying the group now plans to “conquer Rome,” the wire agency said.
The Coptic Church in a statement called on its followers to have “confidence that their great nation won’t rest without retribution for the evil criminals.”
Agence-France Presse pointed out that a scrolling caption on the video of the beheadings said: “The filthy blood is just some of what awaits you, in revenge for Camilia and her sisters.” The reference was to Egyptian Muslims who were married to Coptic priests. Their alleged conversion to Christianity spurred controversy.
Aleteia, February 16, 2015