CEC statement: Palm Sunday at Coptic Churches marred by deadly violence
Deadly bombings at two Coptic Orthodox Churches in Egypt have left a reported 44 people dead and many dozens more injured. Churches throughout the country, and indeed the world, were full for Palm Sunday liturgies marking the start of Holy Week. The first attack took place at Mar Girgis, or Saint George Church, in Tanta, a large city between Cairo and Alexandria, where worshippers carrying palm branches commemorated the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. Hours later a similar attack took place at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading the liturgy.
Church leaders from around the world were quick to condemn the attacks and offer prayer and words of support for the churches in Egypt. Pope Francis remembered the victims in prayers following Palm Sunday Mass. “To the Coptic Church and to all the dear Egyptian nation, I express my deep condolences. I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members [of the deceased and injured] and to the entire community.”
The World Council of Churches responded with a call to protect the fundamental human right to manifest religion through worship and observance. WCC General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit remarked, “In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of goodwill, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting another, and to preventing such violence.”
“Egypt is one of the lands of the Bible blessed by the presence of Our Lord,” remarked CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen. “Coptic Christians represent a continuity of millenniums in this country, which is considered one of the cradles of human civilisation. Peaceful coexistence and mutual respect are part of the experience of Christians and Muslims sharing the villages, cities and the fields of this land nurtured by the Nile. We pray that the Egyptian tradition of mutual hospitality between Christians and Muslims during Easter and Ramadan will give resilience and hope to all Egyptians going through these events caused by godless wrath and evil.”
The Conference of European Churches grieves this tragic loss of life on this holiest of days and extend our condolences to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the faithful of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Together with the churches in Europe and all people of goodwill, we pray for our Egyptian brothers and sisters in Christ, who have known death and persecution for their faith for many years.