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Libya: bishop appeals to Muslims for protection

St Francis Church, Tripoli

St Francis Church, Tripoli

The apostolic vicar of Tripoli has approached Muslim organisations to ask for protection for the small Christian population in the country.

Franciscan Bishop Giovanni Martinelli said today that he has asked the Red Crescent and other organisations to protect Catholic hospitals, churches and convents. Last week many Christians were going to churches to pray for peace. Hospitals and health centres have been inundated with people injured in the street clashes.

There are around 70,000 Catholics in Libya (1.8 % of the population)  served by eight  Catholic priests and about 100 religious sisters.

Last Tuesday, Fr Daniel Farrugia, a senior priest at St Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli, said that priests in the country were not planning to leave. He said:  "We feel we belong here with our sisters who are giving their services in social centres. Their work is so much appreciated by the Libyans here and often finds support and appreciation."  He said that although many foreigners were leaving the country, church life was continuing almost normally.

Fr Daniel said: "We pray for all those who are suffering in these moments and for the leaders to have wisdom in their decisions."

The Catholic Church has two places of worship in Libya: St Francis Church in Tripoli and  the Immaculate Conception church in Benghazi. There are also Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and some Pentecostal churches.

The Christian churches serve mostly migrant workers from Asia, Africa and Europe, and run several hospitals and health centres around the country.

For more information on the Catholic Church in Libya see: www.catholicinlibya.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Source: Vatican Radio/ICN