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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Egypt charges two Coptic monks with bishop’s murder

Prosecutors accuse Wael Al Saad and Remon Resmi of agreeing to kill the cleric over unspecified 'differences'

The killing of a respected bishop in a desert monastery has opened a rare window into the cloistered world of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church. AP
The killing of a respected bishop in a desert monastery has opened a rare window into the cloistered world of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church. AP

Egyptian prosecutors on Sunday charged two Coptic monks with murdering a bishop at a desert monastery, in a high-profile case that has shaken the Christian community in the country.

Bishop Epiphanius, 68, the head of Saint Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natrun, was found dead with a head wound in late July.

Prosecutors accuse monks Wael Al Saad and Remon Resmi of agreeing to kill the senior cleric over unspecified “differences”, a statement from the attorney general’s office said.

Al Saad confessed to lying in wait for the bishop as he headed for prayers, before hitting him over the head with a metal pipe while Resmi watched, the statement said.

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Prosecutors referred the two monks to trial, but no date has been set for the case to be heard.

After the killing, Al Saad, known by his ecclesiastical name Isaiah, was expelled from the church and attempted to commit suicide.

The bishop’s death has rocked the Coptic Church in Egypt, the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Following the incident, the church announced a series of restrictive measures related to the activities of monks.

It said it was stopping accepting new monks for a year and gave current monks a month to disable all of their social-media accounts.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II also closed his official Facebook page.

The moves pointed to the existence of rifts within the church that some have tied to the bishop’s murder.

Church authorities have remained largely silent on the matter.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of some 100 million.