Al Qaeda Gives Ultimatum to Vatican

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The same group of terrorists who are responsible for the massacre of 58 Catholics in a Baghdad Cathedral last weekend has published a letter on the Internet threatening the Vatican that unless they intervene in the release of two women who they claim are being held hostage by Coptic Christians, all churches and Christian organizations will become a “legitimate target for mujahedeen.”

AsiaNews is reporting that the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda, has published an on-line letter demanding the release of two Egyptian women who they claim are being held against their will. The women, Camilia Cheh and Wafa Constantine, are wives of Coptic priests who terrorists claim are being detained in a convent in Egypt. The group alleges that the women converted to Islam in order to leave their husbands since divorce is banned in the Coptic Church.

However, Samia Sidhom, editor of El Watani, a Coptic weekly magazine, said the women left their homes due to “family disagreements” and that neither of them had converted to Islam.

The ISI is refusing to back down. Their unmet demands for the release of the women was behind the group’s slaughter of dozens of Catholics during Mass at a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad, an event they are now threatening to repeat elsewhere.

“The ultimatum made two days ago to the church of Egypt for the release of two Muslim women held prisoner, has expired. We have had no response and now you are all involved in the war on Islam , so be careful of the souls of your followers,” the group says on its website.

“The War Office of the Islamic State of Iraq announces that starting today all the churches and Christian organizations and their leaders are a legitimate target for mujahedeen.” But adds: “These politicians and their bosses in the Vatican should know that the sword will not fall on the heads of their followers if they proclaim their innocence, and distance themselves from what has been done by the Egyptian Church. ”

The group then calls on Catholics to “send a clear signal to the mujahedeen of their effort to put pressure on the Egyptian Church in order to obtain the release of two women, their prisoners.”

The Pope’s response has been to categorically condemn the violence being aimed at innocent Christians.

“I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, all the more ferocious in that it struck defenseless people united in the house of God, which is a place of love and reconciliation,” he told pilgrims in an All Saints’ Day address in St Peter’s Square.

“Confronted with atrocious episodes of violence which continues to tear apart the populations of the Middle East, I want to renew my call for peace.”

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