Coptic pope criticises Pope Benedict

Cairo, Egypt - Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church, criticised Pope Benedict on Saturday over a Vatican document asserting Catholic primacy, saying his pride in Catholicism was making him enemies.

"The man (Pope Benedict) makes enemies every time. In his first statements a few months back, he lost all the Muslims. And now this time, he lost a lot of the Christian denominations because he has begun to err against Christians themselves," Shenouda told the state-run daily Al-Ahram.

The Vatican said on Tuesday that Christian denominations outside Roman Catholicism were not full churches of Jesus Christ, drawing the ire of a number of Protestant groups, who said it would hurt dialogue.

Shenouda attributed the statement to Catholic pride as though "they were the only Christians in the world."

"We're not opposed to Catholics having pride in their church, but that doesn't mean that every church that doesn't join them isn't a church."

Analysts see recent moves by the pope including allowing a wider use of the Latin Mass and reasserting Catholic primacy over other religions as efforts to re-assert traditional Catholic identity and revitalise the church.

"I'm under the impression that the Pope of Rome Benedict is walking in one path and the rest of the Catholics are walking on another path on some issues," Shenouda said.

He was echoing remarks by Bishop Friedrich Weber of Germany's United Evangelical Lutheran Church, who said that official Vatican teaching did not reflect the grass roots reality of inter-denominational dialogue in many communities.

Last year Muslims protested after Benedict used a quote that associated Islam with violence. He said he had been misunderstood and later expressed his esteem for Muslims.

Shenouda discounted the possibility of Pope Benedict backing down or apologising.

"It's not an issue he believes is possible. A normal person can err and apologise, but the Pope of Rome ... is infallible, so how can he err?" said Shenouda.