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Location: Tallahassee, Florida, United States welcomes all opinions from any religion or viewpoint in the common appreciation of Chick tracts. This blog, however, will highlight religious events and controversies that would be of special interest to regular Chick readers. You don't have to agree with them or each other, but if you read Chick tracts or Battlecry, you might expect these type stories to be addressed. (Sorry, no personal attacks allowed.) All main postings are from writers and any responses are from the public

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Missionary Murdered in Mexico

An American missionary shot dead in Mexico may have been targeted for her expensive pickup truck, police say.

Nancy and Sam Davis were attacked by gunmen Wednesday while driving their 2008 Chevrolet pickup on a highway near San Fernando, about 70 miles south of the Mexican border city of Reynosa, police said.

A bullet struck Nancy Davis, 59, in the head. Her husband raced to get her to medical help, speeding across a border bridge into the United States against oncoming traffic, police said. He was met by Pharr, Texas, police officers. Nancy Davis was rushed to a Texas hospital but died of her wound, Pharr police said.

Pharr Police Chief Ruben Villescas told The Associated Press that the Davises' truck is popular with drug cartels operating in the region.

"Driving that type of truck is an eye-catcher," police Sgt. Ray Lara told the AP. "We figure that maybe they don't bother the church people. But they want those trucks."

The couple had worked as Christian missionaries with a group called Gospel Proclaimers since the 1970s, friends said.

Maryanne Wheeler, who did missionary work with the couple, said Nancy Davis loved Mexico and understood the risks involved in her work. The couple lived in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas but also had a home in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.

"Who you need to feel sorry for is the Mexican people, because for 40 years she has unreservedly, unconditionally loved, reached out to the Mexican people," Wheeler told KRGV-TV.

Merton Rundell, a finance director at Union Bible College in Indiana, told Action News 4/CNN that the couple were "dedicated, wonderful people," who made the "ultimate sacrifice" for their religion.

Mexico's Tamaulipas state, where the shooting occurred, is dangerous and is under the influence of the Zetas cartel. The FBI, Texas authorities and Mexican officials are all investigating.

The Davises are the second U.S. couple to come under attack in Mexico in recent months. On Sept. 30, McAllen, Texas, resident David Hartley was Jet-Skiing on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake when he was killed. His wife, Tiffany, said Mexican pirates opened fire and shot her husband, whose body fell into the water. Tiffany Hartley was able to make it back to shore on the U.S. side of the border lake.

The Mexican side of Falcon Lake is controlled by the Zeta drug gang. The Zetas are also very active in the area where the Davises were attacked, authorities said. See Chick's THE LAST MISSIONARY.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Iran Bans V.D.

Iran has banned the production of Valentine's Day gifts and any promotion of the day celebrating romantic love to combat what it sees as a spread of Western culture, Iranian media reported.

The February 14 celebration named after a Christian saint is not officially banned but hardliners have repeatedly warned about the corruptive spread of Western values. Under Iran's Islamic law, unmarried couples are not allowed to mingle.

The printing works owners' union issued an instruction on the ban, imposed by Iranian authorities, covering gifts such as cards, boxes with the symbols of hearts and red roses.

"Honoring foreign celebrations is the spread of Western culture," said the union's head, Ali Nikou Sokhan, ILNA news agency reported. "Our country has an ancient civilization and various days to honor kindness, love and affection."

Valentine's Day has become increasingly popular among the Iranian youth and is a money-maker for businesses in a country where 70 percent of people are under 30 and have no memory of the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.

"Printing and producing any products related to Valentine's Day, including posters, brochures, advertising cards, boxes with the symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned," read the instruction. "Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban."

Some nationalists have suggested replacing Valentine's Day with "Mehregan," an Iranian festival celebrated since the pre-Islamic era. Mehr means friendship, affection or love. See Chick's LOVE STORY.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Obama Celebrates Abortion Anniversary

On the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, President Obama said Saturday said he is committed to protecting what he considers a fundamental principle: "government should not intrude on private family maters."

Obama, in a brief statement marking the 1973 Supreme Court opinion, said he also remains committed "to policies, initiatives and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption."

The president's remarks came as tens of thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators prepared for Monday's annual March for Life in Washington to demand an end to abortion by constitutional amendment, reconsideration by the court, or legislation that somehow gets around the 1973 ruling.

Obama's statement did not represent any deviation from his consistent pro-abortion rights stance. His predecessor, George W. Bush, opposed abortion and signed a bill oulawing a late-term procedure that critics call partial-birth abortion.

With Republicans now in control in the U.S. House -- many of them "pro life," including Speaker John Boehner -- abortion foes have renewed hope that Congress will act to restrict, if not outlaw, abortion. Boehner said in a Twitter post Saturday, "Roe v. Wade is a tragic reminder that we must respect life at all stages, especially the innocent unborn."

Obama did not reference the climate in Congress. But he said, "on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams." See Chick's WHO KILLED CLARICE?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Terry Jones Banned From UK, while USA Lowers Border Protections

Britain barred firebrand U.S. pastor Terry Jones from the country Wednesday, saying his presence would not be "conducive to the public good." "The government opposes extremism in all its forms, which is why we have excluded pastor Terry Jones from the U.K.," said a Home Office spokesman. Rev. Jones, who is based in Gainesville, Fla., triggered an international furor when he announced plans to burn the Koran last year. He was originally invited to speak at a rally organized by the far-right group, the English Defence League. Although the group later withdrew its offer, the radical evangelist, pictured, said he still planned to visit and was thinking of organizing an event in London. The Home Office spokesman said comments made by Rev. Jones provided "evidence of his unacceptable behaviour." "Coming to the U.K. is a privilege not a right, and we are not willing to allow entry to those whose presence is not conducive to the public good."

Travel to the US, however, seems to be right for all illegals, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday canceled the controversial virtual fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, citing technical problems, cost overruns and schedule delays since its inception in 2005. Rather than build any more fence to stem the flow of illegals, the Administration plans to spend more on monitoring so they can watch the illegals cross over, rather than stop them. See Chick's original WHY NO REVIVAL?

Graham Jr. Attacks PC Service on Shooting

President Obama garnered praise from across the political spectrum for his moving speech last week at the memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims, including from some of his usual critics on the right. But don't count the Rev. Franklin Graham as a fan of the event.

In a speech on Tuesday at John Brown University, a private Christian college in Siloam Springs, Ark., the son of the revered evangelist Billy Graham voiced "dismay" at the way the Tucson memorial service was conducted, arguing that it was not as explicitly religious -- mainly "Christian" -- as those following the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks.

Graham was particularly upset that the Tucson memorial featured a Native American medicine man who called upon "father sky and mother earth" for healing.

"There was no call for the name of God to put his loving arms around the people who were hurting, the people that were suffering," Graham said. "Why? Why did they take God out of it? Why did they leave him out?

"Because the world scoffs at the name of Jesus Christ," Graham said, his voice rising in anger. "They scoff when you say he's the son of God."

Graham went on to say that the scoffing and persecution against Christians is only going to get worse.

Initial reports of Graham's speech indicated that he may have been including Obama in his critique, though a review of the video shows that Graham says he "felt sorry" for the president "because I knew he was uncomfortable in that situation."

Graham was referring to the pep rally atmosphere and the prayers by the Native American, an associate professor of medicine at the University, Carlos Gonzales, who is a Pascua Yaqui Indian and fifth generation Arizonan. (Graham called him a native of "the Yuppie tribe or something, I didn't quite get it.")

Graham also stressed his empathy for the president in an op-ed in The Washington Times on Tuesday, saying he was "proud of Mr. Obama" in Tucson in contrast with how he viewed the rest of the event.

"The president read from the Scriptures, and a couple of others," Graham noted in his speech at John Brown University. But also said that no one mentioned God/ Jesus at the Tuscon event, and he said that is the way things seem to be going in America.

"And I believe the memorial service that we saw in Tucson is the template for what you are going to see in a secularized world."

The White House declined to comment on Graham's remarks about the service.

As USA Today's "Faith & Reason" blogger, Cathy Grossman, noted, Graham's critique seems "odd" given that Obama's speech -- which many agreed sounded more like a sermon -- cited the consolations of Psalm 46 plus the laments of Job (Old Testament references that exclude any mention of Jesus-- a favorite trick of Clinton and other politicians who like to sound like they are including Christians without offending any Jews by sticking with the Hebrew Torah).

Moreover, Department of Homeland Security head (and former Arizona governor) Janet Napolitano preceded Obama and read from Isaiah 40. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder read from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (the New Testament) but avoids any mention of Jesus.

A majority of Americans liked Obama's response to the Tucson shootings, with an ABC News-Washington Post poll this week showing 78 percent approval overall, and 71 percent approval from Republicans and conservatives.

Franklin Graham, who has become something of a shepherd to Sarah Palin (she accompanied him to Haiti last month), is becoming known for less a compromiser than his father was, even in Billy Graham's haler days.

He has regularly disparaged Islam, calling it an "evil" religion, a blast that got him booted from official National Day of Prayer celebrations last year. And he once made fun of Hinduism's deities, saying that "No elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation."

Franklin Graham took up some of those themes again on Tuesday at John Brown.

"Even in our government today, you can't pray to Jesus in many public meetings. You can pray to God or a god. You can mention Buddha or the name of Muhammad, but you can't pray to Jesus Christ," Graham told the students.

"We know that we are going to be persecuted for standing up for the name of Christ." See Chick's THE TRIAL.

Vatican Talks About Possible Scandal

A top Vatican official mentioned Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and allegations that Berlusconi paid a 17-year-old prostitute and other women for sex at parties in his villa near Milan.

"The Holy See is watching these Italian matters with attention and, in particular, worry," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state and ranking church official after Pope Benedict XVI, told reporters on Thursday when asked about the charges swirling around Berlusconi.

"The Church pushes and invites everyone, above all those who hold public responsibility in any administrative, political and judicial area, to be committed to a more robust morality, a sense of justice and lawfulness," Bertone said, according to Italian news media.

On Friday, Pope Benedict himself weigh in on the theme, telling an audience of Rome's police chief and police officers that public officials must "rediscover their spiritual and moral roots."

"The singular vocation that the city of Rome requires today of you, who are public officials, is to offer a good example of the positive and useful interaction between a healthy lay status and the Christian faith," the pontiff said.

Also Friday, Italian media reported that the Italian bishops would discuss the Berlusconi scandals at a maeeting on Monday of the hierarchy's main decision-making body.

The 74-year-old Berlusconi, for years the most powerful figure in Italian politics and society, has a reputation for making controversial remarks that have endeared him to many Italians and made him anathema to others.

But over the past two years, allegations of the prime minister's sexcapades with various women have increased. He has come under increasing pressure to resign since left-leaning magistrates accused him of paying for sex with an underage nightclub dancer who goes by the stage name "Ruby Heartstealer."

While a few Catholic publications and individual priests have admonished Berlusconi, the Vatican, whose influence in Italy remains formidable, has conspicuously declined to criticize the prime minister because the hierarchy feels his center-right government is supportive of Vatican positions on traditional morality.

Criticizing the Italian leader for having sex with a minor could also pose a public relations problem for the Vatican just as it is defending itself against ongoing revelations about its tepid response to the scandal of clergy who sexually abused children.

But Berlusconi's behavior seems to have become too much for the Vatican. As Reuters reported, the Vatican newspaper this week took the unusual step of publishing a statement by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in which he said he was very worried about the effect the crisis was having on Italy's stability.

Italian newspapers have been reporting almost daily on stories of kinky parties at Berlusconi's villa that were described in phone transcripts as featuring showgirls wearing, among other things, nurse uniforms.

Ruby Heartstealer, a Moroccan native whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, is a focus of the investigations. She has said she was paid 7,000 euros ($9,390) by Berlusconi after attending one of his parties but had not slept with him. Italian media have published leaks of transcripts of wiretaps in which she asked Berlusconi for 5 million euros in exchange for her silence (although there was no mention of what her silence was about).

El Mahroug also denies that, and Berlusconi has denied having sex with her. He also accuses Italian authorities of waging a vendetta against him and this week said he would propose new laws to prevent investigators from pursuing elected officials.

A top court last week ruled that Berlusconi did not have automatic immunity from prosecution, and last month he barely survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thomas Loses Award For Anti-Israel Comments

The Society of Professional Journalists is retiring the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award, saying controversy over her remarks on Israel has overtaken the reason behind the honor.

The move comes eight months after Thomas, 90, the former longtime White House correspondent, made remarks condemned as anti-Semitic and lost her job with Hearst Newspapers.

"To continue offering the award would reignite the controversy each year and take away from its purpose: honoring a lifetime of work in journalism," the society said on its website. "No individual worthy of such honor should have to face this controversy. No honoree should have to decide if the possible backlash is worth being recognized for his or her contribution to journalism."

In May, Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, was asked by a rabbi if she had any comments on Israel.

"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," she said in videotaped comments. "Remember, these people are occupied. And it's their land. It's not German, it's not Poland." When asked where the Israelis should go, she said they should "go home" to Germany, Poland and the U.S.

The society, founded in 1909, said it considered taking her name off the award in July, but didn't, noting "it was a one-time, spontaneous remark for which she apologized."

But, the society said, she stood by her remarks when quoted in December in Michigan, adding, "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists. No question."

The organization received both support and opposition to taking Thomas' name off the award. The board of directors voted on Friday to stop issuing the lifetime achievement award. The group will not rename the award, whose first recipient was Thomas, in 2000. See Chick's THE SQUATTERS.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Activists Scramble to Paint Occult/ Liberal/ Drug Usingl Killer as Conservative

(From The Blaze) According to Business Insider, a woman claiming to have been a classmate of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords‘ alleged shooter Jared Loughner says he has run into the Congresswoman once before and that he’s “left wing” and “quite liberal.” That comes as some on the left are trying to paint Loughner as one who succumbed to angry, Tea Party rhetoric.

Business Insider says Laughner’s classmate made the revelations about his political persuasions via her Twitter account: "As I knew him, he was left wing and quite liberal. & Oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy."

But when news of the shooting broke, some conservatives, especially Tea Party officials, expressed concern that the left might try to label that gunman as a radical right-winger.

While Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips condemned the attack on Giffords, he told The Hill was concerned the Tea Party movement would be blamed for the incident.

“While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he said.

Debbi Dooley, a national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, echoed a similar sentiment to “A lot of people have bets on how long it will take before they blame this on the tea party and that’s absolutely ridiculous,” she said. Her group condemned the attack via Facebook.

“This heinous act will change the interaction between elected officials and their constituents,” the group’s Facebook wall said. “People also pray for the safety of congressmen, senators, President Obama and other elected officials in the aftermath of this shooting.”

Phillips and Dooley were right.

“Some prominent liberal bloggers wasted little time before politicizing the horrific and tragic shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona on Saturday,” Politics Daily’s Matt Lewis writes.

For example, Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal website DailyKos, sent numerous tweets chiding Palin and the right for the attack: "Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin."

UPDATE: Not all the efforts to exploit the tragedy for political purposes has worked, however. Someone attempted to create a false MySpace page for the killer in order to link him to Sarah Palin, but misspelled his last name (as the media did early on in the reporting). Also, information about the killer's love of pot, heavy metal music, the occult, and the Communist Manifesto has leaked out, which his undermined the left's effort to paint him as a tea-party conservative. Even the local Sheriff has been forced to admit that he has no evidence whatsoever that the killer was motivated by angry rhetoric, but he is still not backing down from public statements that he "suspects" he was. The Congresswoman who was shot was a conservative Democrat, and the Judge killed was also a Conservative. So 1+1=3?

Muslim Wife Collector Gets Beaten by Harem

A Muslim was attacked by his first two wives for marrying again to a fourth. Mian Ishaq, was beaten up by his first and second wives for allegedly conducting a secret wedding with a fourth wife -- and planning a fifth marriage.

Ishaq was reportedly attending a friend's wedding reception with his third wife when his first two spouses, identified as Mehvish and Uzma, arrived with a score to settle, according to The Telegraph.

The wives showed up with relatives and reportedly began overturning tables and threatening Ishaq's life, then attacked their husband with their shoes until police hauled them away.

Uzma told the press that her husband deserved to be beaten.

"We know that he is trying to marry a fifth time, and he should be publicly humiliated for his behavior," she reportedly stated.

But Ishaq says the number of his wives has been greatly exaggerated -- adding that his first two wives have filed for divorce and are trying to force him to sell his home. He called their accusations "a blatant lie."

"I am willing to swear on my life that I only have three wives," he said, according to UPI. See Chick's BUSTED.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sen. Edwards Proposes to Mistress While Ex Wife Is Still Warm

John Edwards has proposed to his mistress Rielle Hunter, The National Enquirer reported Thursday.

A source told the tabloid that the disgraced former senator asked Hunter to marry him shortly after issuing a statement last year admitting that he was the father of her daughter, Frances Quinn.

Edwards, a one-time presidential candidate (and vice-presidential running mate to Al Gore), "is buying a luxury $3.5 million beachfront home where they can live happily ever after with their love child," the Enquirer said.

The couple will wed this summer, according to the tabloid.

It was the Enquirer that first broke the story of the affair between Edwards and Hunter, who worked on his presidential campaign.

Edwards' wife, Elizabeth Edwards, died of breast cancer on Dec. 7. Now that she's out of the way, the former Democratic Senator is wasting now time lining up his next partner. Earlier Thursday, it was reported that Elizabeth Edwards left everything she owned to her three children, leaving her estranged husband out of the will completely. See Chick's CAUGHT.

Christian Doomsday Prediction Oversold

Stories have shown up in several news outlets over the past few days about, as the Associated Press says, "a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin May 21, 2011."

The San Francisco Chronicle writes that a leading voice in that movement is Harold Camping, who runs the Family Radio evangelical station "that reaches listeners around the world."

Camping once thought that Judgment Day (when some say believers will be taken to heaven and others will be left on earth for about five months of torment) would come on Sept. 6, 1994. According to the Chronicle, "Camping allowed that he may have made a mathematical error. He spent the next decade running new calculations [based on his reading of the bible], as well as overseeing a media company that has grown significantly in size and reach." Like before, this recent "prediction" is more a rhetorical question than prophecy. See Chick's WHERE DID THEY GO?

Former Priest Busted With A Girl Friend Converts

After the major scandal two years ago when Father Alberto Cutié was caught by the paparazzi kissing and frolicking on a beach with a woman who is now his wife, Ruhamma Canellis, the priest - who switched churches, from the Roman Catholic to the Anglican in order to keep serving God but also have a family - tells his personal story on a newly released book: 'Dilemma'.

In it, he explains his personal story, his struggle, his moments of pain and disilussion, and how he feels that God wasn't punishing him for loving a woman, but blessing him to fulfill a personal dream of becoming a father to a a beautiful, healthy girl named Camila Victoria (who he himself will baptize this upcoming Sunday). See Chick's MEN IN BLACK.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Bomb Blasts Christians in Egypt

Egypt -Christians clashed with Egyptian police in the northern city of Alexandria on Saturday, furious over an apparent suicide bombing against worshippers leaving a New Year's Mass at a church that killed at least 21 people. It was the worst violence against the country's Christian minority in a decade.

The Interior Ministry blamed "foreign elements," and the Alexandria governor accused al-Qaida, pointing to the terror network's branch in Iraq, which has carried out a string of attacks on Christians there and has threatened Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christian community as well.

Egypt's government has long insisted that the terror network does not have a significant presence in the country, and it has never been conclusively linked to any attacks here. If al-Qaida was involved, it raises the prospect of a serious new security threat within Egypt.

President Barack Obama condemned "this barbaric and heinous act" and said those behind it must be brought to justice.

The bombing, about a half hour after the stroke of the New Year, stoked tensions that have grown in recent years between Egypt's Christians and the Muslim majority.

It was dramatically different from past attacks on Christians, which included shootings but not serious bombings, much less suicide attacks. Christians have increasingly blamed the government for not taking violence against them or anti-Christian sentiment among Muslim hard-liners seriously.

In the wake of the New Year's bombing, they unleashed their rage at authorities.

"Now it's between Christians and the government, not between Muslims and Christians," shrieked one Christian woman as several hundred young men clashed with helmeted riot police in the street outside the targeted church hours after the blast. As the rioters threw stones and bottles, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them. Some of the protesters beat Muslim passers-by.

Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the midnight Mass at the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, said Father Mena Adel, a priest at the church. The service had just ended, and some worshippers were leaving the building when the bomb went off about a half hour after midnight, he said.

"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor, said from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over — legs and bits of flesh."

Blood splattered the facade of the church, a painting of Jesus inside, and a mosque across the street. The blast mangled at least six cars on the street, setting some ablaze. As bodies were taken away after daybreak, some in the congregation waved white sheets with the sign of the cross emblazoned on them with what appeared to be the victim's blood.

Health Ministry spokesman Abdel-Rahman Shahine said the death toll stood at 21, with 97 wounded, almost all Christians. Among the wounded were the three policemen and an officer guarding the church.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that it was likely the blast was detonated by a suicide bomber and that the attack probably involved "foreign elements." Investigators were examining two heads found at the site on suspicion at least one was the bomber, the state news agency MENA reported.

Al-Qaida in Iraq has made a series of threats against Christians. The latest just before Christmas led the Iraqi Christian community to cancel most holiday festivities. After militants attacked a church in Baghdad in October and killed 68 people, it threatened more attacks and linked the violence to two Egyptian Christian women who reportedly converted to Islam in order to get divorces, which are prohibited by the Coptic Church.

The women have since been secluded by the Church, prompting repeated protests by Islamic hard-liners in Egypt accusing the Church of imprisoning the women and forcing them to renounce Islam, a claim the Church denies.

The last major terror attacks in Egypt were between 2004-2006, when bombings — including some by suicide attackers — hit three tourist resorts in the Sinai peninsula, killing 125 people. Those attacks initially raised allegations of an al-Qaida role. But the government has insisted local extremists were to blame.

While the government has denied an al-Qaida presence, Egypt does have a rising movement of Islamic hard-liners who, while they do not advocate violence, adhere to an ideology similar in other ways to al-Qaida. There have been fears they could be further radicalized by sectarian tensions.

Alexandria, the famed city of antiquity which a century ago Egypt's most cosmopolitan city with a mix of Muslims, Christians and foreigners, has become a stronghold for Islamic hard-liners the past decade. Stabbings at three Alexandria churches in 2006 sparked three days of Muslim-Christian riots that left at least four dead, though it's seen little violence since.

Hours after Saturday's blast, President Hosni Mubarak went on state TV and vowed to track down those behind the attack saying: "We will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."

Aiming to calm sectarian tension, he said the attack targeted "all Egypt" and that "terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim."

Egypt's top Muslim leaders also expressed their condolences and solidarity with Christians, and the biggest fundamentalist opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the bombing. Dozens of Christians and Muslims held solidarity marches near the site and in Cairo, and some chanted slogans against Mubarak.

But many Christians in Alexandria were seething. Soon after the explosion, youths clashed with police, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross," witnesses said. Some broke in to the nearby mosque, throwing books into the street and sparking stone- and bottle-throwing clashes with Muslims, an AP photographer at the scene said.

Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes. But in the afternoon, new violence erupted in a street between the church and the affiliated Saints Hospital. Some of the young protesters waved kitchen knives. One, his chest bared and a large tattoo of a cross on his arm, was carried into the hospital with several injuries from rubber bullets.

Later, hundreds gathered at an Alexandria monastery for funerals of the victims, chanting "Mubarak, the Copts' blood is boiling," and "we will no longer be afraid, we will no longer submit" as they waved crosses. Many shouted for the resignation of Alexandria's governor, Adel Labib.

Christians, mainly Orthodox Copts, are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of nearly 80 million people, and they have grown increasingly vocal in complaints about discrimination. In November, hundreds of Christians rioted in the capital, Cairo, smashing cars and windows after police violently stopped the construction of a church. The rare outbreak of Christian unrest in the capital left one person dead.

The bombing was the deadliest violence involving Christians in Egypt since at least 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed in sectarian clashes in a southern town in 1999. In the most recent significant attack, seven Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting on a church in southern Egypt during celebrations for the Orthodox Coptic Christmas a year ago.

Eruptions of Muslim-Christian violence are often intermeshed with local tribal or personal disputes. But many Christians also blame rising Islamic extremism and anti-Christian sentiment and accuse the government of always pointing the finger at lone renegades or mentally ill people to avoid addressing sectarian problems and possibly angering Muslims.

Archbishop Raweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, denounced what he called a lack of protection.

"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church. Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from al-Qaida?" he said, speaking to the AP.

The possibility of involvement by al-Qaida or its sympathizers introduces a dangerous new element.

Egypt faced a wave of Islamic militant violence in the 1990s which peaked with a 1997 massacre of nearly 60 tourists at a Pharaonic temple in Luxor. The government suppressed the insurgency with a fierce crackdown. See Chick's MEN OF PEACE?