Middle East and North Africa

Easter in Egypt: thousands went to Church despite Palm Sunday attacks 

Thousands of Copts attended worship at Abbassiya Cathedral on Saturday night amid tight security as Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt’s Copts, celebrated the mass. In attendance also were several officials and public figureds.

The Pope addressed the 5,000 strong congregation saying: “Our hearts are in great deal of pain for our victims. We will always remember them. May God protect you. We pray to God to protect our beloved country.” He thanked President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who visited the cathedral in the wake of the blasts as a “huge show of solidarity”.

“History will remember the Palm Sunday martyrs. God selected them on that day to be ambassadors in heaven to pray for us,” the Pope said. “We wish to rejoice with everyone but we are deeply sad due to the incidents which occurred last week. We, the Egyptians, are used to sharing our joy and our sadness,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Armed Forces have finished the restoration of the Alexandria church gate as well as the stores and shops that were affected by the blast as President Asisi promised they would by Easter. Security was also provided at all the 2,626 churches across all governorates for the Easter celebrations

In solidary and prayers for the twin bomb attacks on the Coptic Church in Egypt by the Islamic State in the Peninsular, Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Easter message, at Canterbury Cathedral, Kent asked for ‘restoration and hope’ to a world where ‘evil’ still exists.

“Christians in Egypt live surrounded by bombs and terror. We and those we love know the grim, grey moments of illness, suffering, arguments, poverty, ill health mental and physical, prison, guilt and failure,” he said.

Archbishop Welby declared: “Everything we are and own and see is to be lived, and held and understood through the resurrection.”

But he warned that this vision was “utterly counter” to how the world sees things. “We experience a world of pain and despair, grief and death. ‘These things overshadow our lives because we fear they may have the last word. These things lie, they deceive, they pretend to have power that they do not have, when they say they are final. There is only one finality, Jesus the crucified one is alive. In the hard journeys we all face, in every moment of loss, the community of witnesses to the resurrection must come alongside and, with love and gentleness, bring restoration and hope,” he said.

Pope Francis also referred to the evil of Islamic terrorism and state dictatorships at a late-night vigil at St Peter’s Basilica. He spoke about the “pain” of immigrants, the poor, and other vulnerable people.

“In their faces, we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation, and human trafficking,” he said. “We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house, and family,”

On Easter morning mass, in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said that Jesus took upon himself all the evils which victimise people, including illegal trafficking, exploitation, discrimination and addiction.

He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.”

Pope Francis offered prayers for victims of “armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes.” The Pontiff mentioned, “a war that continues to sow horror and death” in Syria. “Just yesterday, there was the latest evil attack on refugees attempting to flee, which provoked numerous deaths and injuries,” the Pope said, making reference to over 112 people killed in a bomb attack that targeted buses evacuating people in Syria on Saturday.

Francis prayed for an end to violence and famine in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict,” the pope said. Making the declaration of hope and resilience of the church, Francis said, “Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: ‘Jesus is risen! He is truly risen, as he said!”