03/13/2024, 12.28
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South Africa: three Coptic Orthodox monks killed, suspect detained

The murder occurred yesterday at the monastery of St. Mark and St. Samuel the Confessor in Cullinan, 30 km east of Pretoria. The person arrested is said to be an Egyptian member of the Church. The condolences of the Cairo authorities, Pope Tawadros is also 'closely following' the affair. Grief and dismay in the Egyptian Coptic community.  

Cairo (AsiaNews) - A new bloody event shakes the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church: yesterday three monks were "brutally murdered" in a monastery in South Africa. The victims are p. Takla Moussa (head of the diocese of South Africa), Fr. Minah ava Marcus and Fr Youstos ava Marcus, killed yesterday morning in the monastery of Saint Mark and Saint Samuel in Johannesburg in still mysterious circumstances.

The local police have started investigations but, at the moment, the motive behind the attack on the Christian religious institution in a nation that has the unenviable record for murders and violence is unclear.

The Egyptian ambassador in Johannesburg also visited the site in recent hours to stay updated on the developments of the investigation and bring the support of the Cairo institutions to the religious community. Even the leader of the Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II, explains a note, "is closely following all the details of this incident, waiting to be informed about its causes", while the Coptic community expresses "its profound anguish" for what happened .

Sources close to the investigation, reported by the BBC, report the arrest of an Egyptian member of the Church as a "possible suspect".

The murder has caused deep tension and shock throughout the Coptic Orthodox community in South Africa and beyond. "Our pain and sadness - we read in the note - cannot be expressed in words, but we know that they rejoice in paradise in the bosom of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church of London called the murders "sad and shocking".

The death occurred yesterday in the monastery of St. Mark and St. Samuel the Confessor, located in Cullinan, a small town 30 km east of the capital Pretoria. Provincial police spokesman Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi told Reuters that all three murdered monks were found with stab wounds. One survivor told police that he was hit with an iron stick, but managed to escape and hide.

Investigators are still trying to determine the motive for the murders and the perpetrators, who "hastily left the crime scene without taking any valuables" as stated by Colonel Nevhuhulwi. A detail that would seem to exclude the origin of the robbery that ended in blood, in a nation where violent crimes are high as is the murder rate.

The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox community is no stranger to bloody events that have marked its internal life and shaken the institution itself to its core. Among others, the obscure killing at the end of July 2018 of Bishop Anba Epiphanios, abbot of the monastery of Saint Macarius, for which an Egyptian court sentenced two former monks to death: Wael Saad and Ramon Rasmi Mansour, better known by the name of Faltaous al-Makari, who allegedly acted due to "differences" with their superior.

On the evening of July 29, the 64-year-old prior of the monastery of Saint Macarius in Wadi Natrun, about 110 km north-west of Cairo, was found lifeless and with deep head wounds inside the institute located in a desert area. Following his death, the leaders of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church imposed a ban on the use of social media for monks and a one-year block on new entries into seminaries.

Among the reasons that led to the sentence there is also the fact that the two perpetrators had no "scruples" in committing the act and that they "did not take into due account" the advanced age and spiritual stature of the victim. This effectively excluded the possibility of granting the generic mitigating circumstances of the case.

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