CAIRO — Police officers firing tear gas joined with a rock-throwing crowd fighting a group of Christian mourners Sunday in a battle that escalated into an attack on Egypt’s main Coptic Christian Cathedral that lasted for hours.
It was the third day of an outburst of sectarian violence that is testing the pledges of Egypt’s Islamist president to protect the country’s Christian minority. By nightfall, at least one person had died from the day’s clashes, bringing the weekend’s death toll to six.
Later Sunday, President Mohamed Morsi called the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, to reassure him. “I consider any aggression against the cathedral an aggression against me personally,” Mr. Morsi said, according to state media.
The president ordered an investigation of the violence and instructed security forces “to protect the citizens inside the Cathedral,” state media reported, and he pledged to protect both Muslims and Christians.
The violence began Friday when a sectarian dispute in the town of Khusus outside Cairo escalated into a gunfight that killed four Christians and a Muslim — the first major episode of deadly sectarian violence since Mr. Morsi’s election last year. Hundreds of Christians and sympathetic Muslims gathered at the cathedral Sunday for the four Christians’ funeral, chanting for the removal from power of Mr. Morsi and his Islamist allies.