A leading German Catholic priest yesterday (2 March) criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “genuflecting” to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and failing to raise human-rights concerns as she headed to North Africa for trade talks.

Joachim Schroedel, who has worked in Egypt for more than two decades, rejected Mrs Merkel’s assertion that Egyptian Copts were in a “very good situation” and her description of Egypt as a stabilising force in the region, Reuters reported.

“What does the Chancellor want to accomplish with such genuflection?” Fr. Schroedel told the Bild newspaper.

Attacks against Egypt’s Copts have intensified since the bombing of a church next to a Coptic cathedral in Cairo in December that killed 28 people. Encouraged by propaganda by Islamic State, murders are now being carried out almost daily, especially in the North Sinai province, and have caused hundreds of Copts to flee their homes.

However the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram noted that Mrs Merkel yesterday visited the Cairo church and the cathedral and met the Coptic leader, Pope Tawadros II, before going to Al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni learning, to discuss radicalism and Islamophobia with Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb.

Earlier this week Amnesty International condemned the Egyptian authorities for failing to protect Copts from “this terrifying wave of attacks”.