VATICAN CITY –– As the official death toll rose from clashes Aug. 14 in Egypt and as the damaged done to Christian churches was being assessed, Pope Francis invoked Mary, queen of peace, to bring calm to the country.
In light of the "painful news" coming from Egypt Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Pope Francis said he was praying for "all the victims and their families, for the injured and those who are suffering."
"Let us pray together for peace, dialogue and reconciliation in that dear land and throughout the world," the pope told an estimated 12,000 people who joined him in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, for the feast day Mass and recitation of the Angelus prayer.
The violence in Egypt began at dawn Aug. 14 when the Egyptian military and police used bulldozers and tear gas to clear out camps of people protesting the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in early July. Morsi was supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants Egypt to have an Islamic inspired government.
The Egyptian health ministry said early Aug. 15 that 525 people, including dozens of police and military, died in the subsequent fighting. The protesters claimed more than 2,000 people died. News reports spoke of 20 Christian churches being burned, mainly as symbols of Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, who supported Morsi's ouster in the hopes of a democratic Egypt where the country's Christian minority would enjoy full freedom.
Before reciting the Angelus in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Francis asked the crowds gathered there to join him in asking Mary, queen of peace, to hear his prayers for Egypt.