08/21/2018, 15.15
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Egyptian priest: uncertainty about two monks indicted over Coptic bishop’s death

Police arrested Wael Saad, a former monk, for the murder, and Faltaous, a 33-year-old monk, as an accessory. The latter attempted suicide and is currently in hospital. For a spokesman of the Catholic Church, the suspect has long been "a source of trouble" in his old monastery. The affair tops social media. Christians and Muslims are more united.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The investigation into the murder of a Coptic bishop is still underway. No motives have yet to be identified but the man accused, a former monk, appears to have been a “source of trouble" in his monastery, this according to Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, who spoke to AsiaNews about the odd death of Coptic Bishop Anba Epiphanios.

Showing serious head injuries, the lifeless body of the 64-year-old abbot was found on the evening of 29 July in the Monastery of Saint Macarius in Wadi El Natrun, a valley in a desert area about 110 km northwest of Cairo. For Fr Rafic, "The whole affair has baffling aspects. So far nothing has emerged that can help clarify it."

A former monk who had been recently expelled from his religious order was charged with the murder. Wael Saad (whose monastic name was Isaiah) confessed to killing the bishop, accusing a 33-year-old monk, Faltaous, of complicity. The latter is currently in a Cairo hospital after a failed suicide attempt.

A few days after the abbot’s murder and before Saad’s arrest, Faltaous cut his wrists and jumped from the tallest building in the monastery. He survived the fall and is now under investigation.

According to information leaked to the press, Saad had squabbled with his superiors and had come under investigation for breaching the monastery’s customs. Eventually, he was defrocked and expelled "for inappropriate conduct".

For Fr Rafic, the affair still has many blind spots, namely why "was he (the murderer) still inside even though he had left the monastery a long time before".

According to certain rumours, Saad "had been causing trouble in the monastery for a while” and "had failed to follow the abbot’s orders. There may have been differences of opinion on matters of dogma and faith, but certainly nothing that could justify murder,” Fr Rafic said.

Following the abbot’s murder, the leaders of the Coptic Church closed all of its social media accounts, including Facebook to Twitter. Coptic Pope Tawadros II set the example by shutting down his rarely used accounts.

According to some sources, the decision is due to growing divisions within Coptic Church (10 per cent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni population of about 100 million). The Church itself has not yet publicly commented the affair.

"The murder has caused a stir in Egypt, and is being discussed in public,” said Fr Rafic. “On social media, all sorts of stories are circulating, much of it gossip. We should wait for the results of the investigation and the work of prosecutors.”

Although shaken by the violence, Egypt’s Christians are going through a positive phase, as Fr Rafic confirmed. "Today the government and ordinary Egyptians are more aware of the need to be united, independently of one’s religious affiliation or practice.”

As Egypt celebrates Eid al-Adha (20-22 August), “many members of my community send good wishes and congratulations to Muslims. Some past sectarian problems seem to have been overcome."

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