(Photo: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito)
Pope Francis spoke out on the Egypt crisis on Sunday, praying for peace but also declaring that violence is incompatible with Christian faith.
"The word of the Gospel does not authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is 'just the opposite: the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible," the leader of the Roman Catholic Church said following the Angelus prayer at St. Peter's Square.
Government forces in Egypt are confronting fierce protests from Muslim Brotherhood-backed supporters over the past several weeks, which has led to violence all throughout the North African country and has left hundreds of people dead.
Coptic Christians have also found themselves targeted by Islamists accusing them of playing a role in bringing down former president Mohamed Morsi, which has resulted in a number of churches, Christian bookstores and schools being attacked and burned down.
"The Catholic Church is following, with all the pain and hope, what is going on in our country, from terrorism and loss of life to the burning of churches, schools and state institutions. So, out of love for our country, and in solidarity with all those who love the Christians and Muslims of Egypt, we try as much as we can to contact friendly international entities and show them the reality of things," H.H. Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac, head of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt, explained in a statement on Monday.
Pope Francis, who has often called upon world leaders to work for peace in the region, directed his prayers on Sunday to the Virgin Mary – Queen of Peace.
"Let us run with perseverance the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus," the Vatican leader said.
Last week, Father Ciro Benedettini, the vice-director of the Vatican Press Office, shared that Francis "continues to follow with growing concern the serious news coming from Egypt and continues to pray for end to violence, and that the parties choose the path of dialogue and reconciliation."
The Pope also focused on Luke 12:51 as found in the Bible, in which Jesus tells his disciples: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." The Roman Catholic leader explained that the verse means that faith "is not something decorative, or ornamental, it is not there to decorate your life with a little 'of religion."
He further reflected that Jesus is not talking about dividing people from each other, but asks each person to choose between living for oneself and living for God.