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Pope Francis denounces murder of Coptic Christians in Libya

Pope Francis (CNS)

Pope Francis has denounced the killing of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt by ISIS.

The Pope commented on the atrocity that took place in Libya during a meeting with an ecumenical delegation from Scotland. The Pope departed from his prepared address to say that the Copts had been killed because they were Christian.

“Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’. They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians,” the Pope said.

“You, my brother, in your words referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. 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.”

Pope Francis added: “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 martyrs belong to all Christians.”

Terrorists in Libya, who claim to be affiliated with ISIS, released a video on Sunday appearing to show the beheading of a group of Coptic Christians who were abducted last month.

In the video, entitled A Message Signed with Blood to the Nations of the Cross, the hostages appear to be beheaded after being forced to kneel next to the Mediterranean Sea. A militant says they are sending a message “from the south of Rome”. At the end of the footage the same English-speaking fighter raises his knife to the water and says ISIS would “conquer Rome”.

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s representative in Tripoli has vowed to remain in Libya in solidarity with the city’s small community of Filipino Catholics.

Speaking to Vatican Radio, Bishop Giovanni Martinelli said: “I have to stay… (There is) certainly a bit of fear there. There is a small group of Filipinos, we are here, just witnesses of what Jesus tells us to do. And that’s it.”

He added: “We are here, in the name of God and in the name of St Francis, with the desire to be witnesses of Jesus”.

Bishop Martinelli urged “fraternal dialogue between civilisations” to help bring about a peaceful solution to the worsening situation Libya.