Egypt's attacks won't stop pope's visit for peace, says Vatican official

By Carol Glatz

recent and repeated terrorist attacks against Egypt’s minority Christian
communities, Pope Francis will not cancel his visit to Egypt.

“The pope’s trip to
Egypt proceeds as scheduled,” Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic
News Service by email April 10. The pope is scheduled to meet governmental and
interfaith leaders during an April 28-29 visit to Cairo.

“Egyptians are looking
forward to Pope Francis’ visit, although the atmosphere at present is heavy,”
Father Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Egyptian bishops, told CNS April 10,
the day after the attacks.

“The pope’s mission is to
be beside his brothers at the time of difficulty. Now is the real time that he
can bring peace and hope to the Egyptian people as a whole and to the
Christians of the East, in particular,” Father Grieche added.

He said people were uneasy
entering churches with metal detectors and other security measures.

“It’s not like going to a
normal church. But we need these measures to keep people safe,” he said.

He said after the attack, he
celebrated a Mass with 2,000 people.

“The people knew already
about the attack in Tanta, but they did not want to be afraid. In the evening,
they also came for the prayers of the Holy Week,” Father Grieche said.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros
II was in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria April 9 for the Palm Sunday service,
when an explosion went off outside the church. Security footage appeared to show
a security officer direct a man who was seeking entry into the cathedral to go
through a metal detector. The man took a step under the detector then backed up
a step, followed by a huge explosion that cut off the camera feed.

Earlier, a bomb exploded 70
miles away inside the Church of St. George in Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo,
during its Palm Sunday service. Estimates say at least 44 people were killed
and more than 100 injured in the two attacks, making it one of the deadliest
against the nation’s Christians in decades.

It was the single deadliest
day for Christians in decades and the worst since a bombing at a Cairo church
in December killed 30 people.

Pope Tawadros told the Italian
national network Rai News
April 9 the attacks would “not damage the unity and cohesiveness” of
the Egyptian people.

“Egyptians are united
before this terrorism,” he said, adding that “these vile attacks that
hit people of peace in places of prayer demonstrate that terrorism lacks any

Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, also
condemned the attacks, calling them a “despicable terrorist bombing that
targeted the lives of innocents.”

Retired Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonios Mina of Giza, Egypt,
said the incidents were an attack against the nation’s unity, its Coptic
Christians, “to remind them that they have no rights, and against all
Christian minorities of the country that anxiously await Pope Francis.”

“Despite it all, we will
never lose hope. These atrocious gestures make us firmer in the faith and
stronger,” he said. “Egypt’s Christians are warriors of hope.”

One Catholic leader
highlighted his country’s failure to address the real causes behind the Palm
Sunday massacres.

Speaking to “the
officials and the wise of this country,” Coptic Catholic Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna of Minya
said that “you don’t fight terrorism with words or slogans, nor with
security or armies alone.”

“What have you done for
social, economic, health, political and human justice? What have you done for
the poor and downtrodden? What have you done to reform thought, expression and
religious discourse?”

In a posting on his Facebook
page, Bishop Fahim said that when Pope Francis goes to Cairo, he “will
come to say no to terrorism and evil, and yes to goodness and fraternity. Love
will never fail.”

Around the world, religious
leaders offered prayers.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the attacks on the
churches were “unspeakable persecution.”

“In the midst of what
should be peace, horrible violence yet again,” he said. On behalf of all
U.S. bishops, the cardinal expressed “our deepest sadness” for all
those killed and injured, and their loved ones.

“I also express our
solidarity with the Coptic church in Egypt, an ancient Christian community that
faces mounting persecution in its historic home from violent extremism. I also
pray for the nation of Egypt, that it may seek justice, find healing, and
strengthen protection for Coptic Christians and other religious minorities who
wish only to live in peace.”

Egypt is 90 percent Sunni
Muslim; Christians make up the remaining 10 percent, with that majority being
the Coptic Orthodox church. The Catholic community in Egypt numbers about
272,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population.

– – –

Contributing to this story
was Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan.


– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article