Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
The video above (warning: contains some violent images) is CCTV footage showing a mob attacking St. George's Coptic Orthodox church in Sohag, Upper Egypt, a couple of days ago.
The images haven't been independently verified, but reports coming out of the country say 64 churches and institutions, including many belonging to the Coptic Catholic Church, were attacked in one day by Islamist mobs opposed to the current government. The website "Protect the Pope" has the full list here.
Fr. Rafiq Greiche, spokesman for Egypt's Catholic bishops, told Vatican Radio today that "40 churches - 10 Catholic and 30 Orthodox, Protestant and Greek-Orthodox - have been looted or burned, if not totally destroyed."
Asia News reports that in addition to churches, the "fundamentalists attacked monasteries, schools and many shops and houses inhabited by Christians. Several homes and shops were marked with a cross, and with violent slogans, as if to indicate them as a target for future attacks."
The attackers turned on Coptic Christians after its leadership supported the unseating of President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first Islamist president. Morsi's enforced departure followed mass protests calling for his resignation at the end of June, brought upon by severe fuel shortages and electricity outages. He was formally ousted by the military on 3 July, together with a council that included the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
This week's violence was sparked by an army crackdown against Egyptians protesting the ouster of Morsi. As well as churches, mosques have also been attacked. The death toll from the violence is currently reported to be over 600.
Yesterday, Pope Francis called on the faithful to "pray together for peace, dialogue and reconciliation in that dear nation and throughout the world," and assured all "the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering" of his prayers.
Coptic Christians have been worried about the future since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011, and those worries intensified after the election in 2012 of Morsi, a former leading figure in the Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The political wing of the organisation has denied being behind this week's attacks on Christians.
For years, Egypt's Copts have suffered from marginalisation and discrimination, although violence was generally kept in check during the rule of Mubarak.
Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people, but tens of thousands have fled the country since the end of the Mubarak government.