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Terrorist attacks

During the month of April, Egypt has been in the news on most international television channels. That is due to the terrorist attacks that took place in two Coptic Orthodox churches during the Palm Sunday celebrations. The first attack took place in the city of Tanta, about a hundred kilometers away from Cairo, and it left many dead and even more injured. The suicide bomber succeeded in introducing himself into the church and reach the first rows during the ceremony, notwithstanding the security measures, and he exploded himself there, killing many people, among whom many children. The second attack took place shortly afterwards in Alexandria in the Coptic Orthodox cathedral where Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church had just finished celebrating and was still in the building. What avoided an even greater and much more serious massacre and saved Pope Tawadros and many faithful from death was the courage of two security police officers who blocked the terrorist at the entrance. At that point, the terrorist blew himself up killing the security officers and people who were near the entrance of the church.

© Al-Masdar News

These two terrorist acts shocked the whole country and the people’s reaction was immediate. Christians and Muslims together ran to the hospitals to give blood to save the lives of those wounded and needing transfusions. Together too they took to the squares and streets to shout that this is not our Egypt and that we all want to live together in a united country, as one people.

A Pascal Triduum without incidents

Of course, since these attacks, the tension is great and fear too, and it was particularly so with the approach of the Pascal Triduum, which sees the faithful filling the churches. The ministry of the interior and the army, therefore, increased the security measures around the churches. The streets leading to the churches became pedestrian areas, and security gates, such as those in airpors were installed a few metres away from each church and people had to enter one by one, presenting their id cards and accepting to have their bags searched. Luckily the Triduum passed without incident, and the Egyptians were able to celebrate Easter Monday, which is also the national holiday to celebrate Spring, in peace, even though the festive spirit was somewhat lacking.

Visit of  Pope Francis

© Crux now

Now everybody’s attention in the country is focused on Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt. He will be here from Friday 28th to Saturday 29th April. The visit has been announced as the visit of “The Pope of Peace in the Egypt of Peace”. The announced aim is to encourage and support both ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialogue. The Pope will be meeting the president of the republic, Mohamed El Sisi, the head of Al Azhar University, the highest Islamic authority in the country and Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church on Friday afternoon and evening. And he will be visiting St. Peter’s Church (the Boutrosiyya), on the grounds of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, where a terrorist attack in December 2016 left a large number of dead and an even greater number injured. Most were women and children. The Pope will pray in silence in front of what has become known as “The Wall of the Martyrs”, which is a wall covered with the blood of the victims, and which has become a place of pilgrimage. This is expected to be a very significant moment in the visit, both because of its ecumenical importance and because the Pope has stated clearly that he wants to pray on the place where the news martyrs gave their lives to express his solidarity with the suffering and trials of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Saturday is dedicated to the Pope’s pastoral visit to the Coptic Catholic community, with a Mass to be celebrated in a big military stadium, where 25000 people are expected to attend. He will also meet a group of about 300 young people on the grounds of the Apostolic Nunciature  and at three in the afternoon, he will be visiting the Coptic Catholic Seminary, in Maadi, on whose grounds will be held a meeting with male and female religious and the diocesan clergy. Everyone is waiting for this visit with joy and the preparations are going ahead in full swing. At the same time, we cannot deny that people are worried and security measures are going to be very tight.

On a different register, the local Superiors of the Province had a three day meeting with the Provincial, Fr. Dany Younes, in our retreat house in Maryout, on the outskirts of Alexandria. It was nice to see our brethren from Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, the Holy Land, Lebanon, and Syria.

Read also: Pope Francis in Egypt: 'No to every form of violence'

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