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‘We share in the pain and heartbreak’: bishops respond to Egypt church bombings

Egyptian Christians carry a coffin at the funeral for victims of a blast at the Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox church in the Nile delta city of Tanta (Photo: Getty)

Catholic bishops have expressed their sorrow following two deadly blasts at churches in Egypt yesterday during Palm Sunday services.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Bernard Longley and Archbishop Kevin McDonald – members of the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Forum – said the attacks on two Coptic churches were “atrocious acts of terrorism.”

They said: “It is with deep sorrow and sadness that we learned of the bombing of St George’s Coptic church (Mar Girgis) in the city of Tanta in the Nile Delta, and the explosion outside St Mark’s Coptic church in Alexandria. Both blasts took place during a Palm Sunday service, where traditionally palm branches are blessed as a symbol of peace. Nothing can justify these atrocious acts of terrorism.”

Explosions were heard at two Coptic churches yesterday as worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday, killing at least 43 people and injuring about 100. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The bishops’ statement assured victims and their families of their thoughts and prayers, along with Pope Tawadros II and “the Coptic community across the world and the people of Egypt.”

They continued: “We have sent an assurance of our prayers and a message of support to Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, released a statement condemning the attackers’ “senseless and heartless brutality.”

He said: “While it is still too early to determine responsibility, what is undeniable is the senseless and heartless brutality that can lead a person or people to indiscriminately take innocent lives, especially at the most vulnerable hour of prayer.

“Today we suffer with our sisters and brothers who have experienced losses in London, in Stockholm, and as well as those who continue to suffer on a daily basis across the Middle East. We pray for them and their families as well as their suffering and struggling communities.”

He continued: “We pray for His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and all our Coptic clergy in Egypt who continue to serve their spiritual children faithfully and diligently at a time in which their leadership and pastoral care is needed by our whole community. We also pray for our Coptic Orthodox sisters and brothers who continue to be resilient in the face of ongoing and escalating attacks, and who resist the urge to react vengefully or reciprocally.

“We are also saddened by the news that members of the security services who attempted to foil the second bombing in Alexandria lost their lives in the line of duty. We pray comfort and resolve for their families and colleagues.”

Reflecting on the message of Easter, Bishop Angaelos said: “As we continue into the Holy Week of our Saviour, we share in the pain and heartbreak of their families and of all those affected by today’s incidents.

“As we celebrate the Feast of the glorious Resurrection at the end of this week, we are reminded that our life here on earth is a journey often filled with pain, at the end of which is a promised glorious and eternal life void of such suffering and evil.”