NEW YORK—In the wake of twin terror attacks on two churches in Egypt that killed 44 people, Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut called on Christians around the world to pray for the victims.
On Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, two suicide attacks unleashed carnage in two Coptic Orthodox churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The strikes also wounded at least 120 worshippers. “Prayer is the most important thing we can ask for at this time,” the bishop told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The prelate said he was not entirely surprised at the new attacks, referring to bombing of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Cairo last December, which killed almost 30 people. “Our sense of security was not very strong,” Bishop Kyrillos said.
The bishop emphasized that both the government and the country’s Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches will ramp up their collaboration to ensure the security of Christian places of worship. The bishop said: “I was visited by a security official who asked me what we need now. He made the suggestion that we could train young people and adults, and that all resources could be pooled in order to increase security. Here in Assiut there are 550 Christian churches. Thank God, nothing has happened here so far, but we are too little prepared for such events.”
Asked about the danger of an exodus of Christians from Egypt—as has been happening in Iraq and Syria–like Bishop Kyrillos expressed the conviction that these attacks would not create any large-scale exodus of Christians from Egypt. “In Egypt the people feel a close bond with their country and all of them see themselves as Egyptians – whether they are Christians or Muslims. There is a stronger sense of solidarity among the population here than elsewhere,” he said. However, the bishop suggested, the intention of the terrorists is to destroy this solidarity.
The bishop said that the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt, scheduled for April 28-29, 2017, is “more important now than ever.” He is convinced that the trip will not be called off, since, he said, the Pope has already “shown the courage, precisely in such situations, to come and strengthen the people.” Bishop Kyrillos expressed confidence that the Pope will send out a clear message of peace when he visits the country.