Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1406, (16 - 29 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Monastery murder: Confession

Michael Adel reports on the investigation into the murder of Bishop Epiphanius


Monastery murder: Confession
Monastery murder: Confession

Pope Tawadros II called the families of Ashiaa Al-Maqari and Faltaous Al-Maqari, the two monks charged with the murder of Bishop Epiphanius, abbot of the St Macarius Monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun, informed sources told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The pope offered the families his commiseration in their ordeal. He also reassured the family of Ashiaa Al-Maqari that the accused monk’s brother, a member of the St George Monastery in Riziqat, Luxor, will not be subject to any ecclesiastical or legal questioning.

The sources said that the pope is receiving regular updates on the case from members of the papal secretariat. Reverend Angelos Ishaq, an ecclesiastical official known to be very close to the pope, is among those charged with monitoring the case.

The pope also met with Coptic bishops and prominent secular figures, most notably the Coptic intellectual Kamal Zakher. The pope’s meeting with Zakher lasted nearly two hours, during which developments related to the recent crisis were discussed.

Pope Tawadros moved to the Monastery of Anba Bishoi, located close to the St Macarius Monastery, immediately after the de-frocked monk Ashiaa Al-Maqari confessed to the murder of Bishop Epiphanius, and named Faltaous Al-Maqari, another monk, as his accomplice.

In an article for the latest edition of the Coptic Church’s mouthpiece Karaza Pope Tawadros observed that the murder of Bishop Epiphanius, whom he described as the “great victim”, had attracted international attention.

Faltaous Al-Maqari, who attempted to commit suicide when the case broke, was taken first to the Anglo-American Hospital in Zamalek, Cairo and then transferred to Qasr Al-Aini Hospital after the prosecutor-general ordered his detention pending investigations.

Amir Nasif, who recently withdrew as defence attorney for Wael Saad, the lay name of Ashiaa Al-Maqari, says Saad was formally charged with premeditated murder on Monday and placed in detention for four days pending further investigations. The lawyer said “security officials have done a great job” and “investigations were conducted with the utmost transparency.”

A security source familiar with the case said that the murder of Bishop Epiphanius followed on from earlier disputes during which 17 monks set up a WhatsApp group which they used to plan a break from the monastery over their differences with Coptic Church policy.

The source said that the prosecution had confronted Faltaous with Ashiaa’s confession and that Faltaous then tried to commit suicide twice. After Ashiaa’s confession prosecution officials went to the hospital where the 33-year-old Faltaous, whose lay name is Raymond Rasmi Mansour, is being detained pending interrogations.

Wael Saad entered St Macarius Monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun in 2010. He was stripped of his sacerdotal rank on 5 August after he was found guilty of violating monastic codes of behaviour.

In a related development, Church sources have denied that the Monastic Affairs Committee met to determine whether to strip monk Faltaous Al-Maqari of his sacerdotal rank. They said that the committee would only convene after the defendant is released from hospital and the authorities release the results of their investigations into his alleged complicity in the murder of Bishop Epiphanius.

Meanwhile, a group of Church activists have launched a campaign on their Facebook page to exonerate late Pope Shenouda III of any connection with the scandalous murder. It had been suggested by some that, in his capacity as head of the St Macarius Monastery, the late pope was responsible for admitting Ashiaa and Faltaous to the monastery.

According to the activists, the monks were actually admitted to St Macarius Monastery in 2007, which was before the late pope came to supervise it officially. Bishop Mikhail of Assiut was in charge of the monastery at the time, resigning in 2009, which was when Pope Shenouda took over. Bishop Mikhail died in 2014.

The prosecution has extended the detention of Wael Saad/Ashiaa Al-Maqari for another 15 days. Faltaous is still under guard at Qasr Al-Aini Hospital, pending investigations.

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