Sunday 19 November 2017

Egypt's Easter celebrations cut after bombings

A man walks outside a Christian church-paraphernalia shop in Cairo’s northern suburb of Shubra. Photo: Getty Images
A man walks outside a Christian church-paraphernalia shop in Cairo’s northern suburb of Shubra. Photo: Getty Images

Josie Ensor, Beirut

Egypt's Coptic Church has announced that it will scale back Easter celebrations to a single Mass in each church after twin bombings killed 45 worshippers last weekend.

The attacks - the deadliest in recent years against Christians in the country - shook the community and provoked rare public anger at the government for failing to protect the minority.

"Given the current circumstances and our solidarity with the families of the dead, we are going to limit our celebrations to Easter Mass," the Church said. The Minya Coptic Orthodox diocese, a southern province which has the largest Christian population, said this weekend's services would be limited to liturgical prayers "without any festive manifestations".

The handing out of sweets to children by the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, before the start of Easter Mass on Sunday will also be cancelled.

On Tuesday, parliament approved President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's decision to declare a three-month state of emergency following the suicide bombings in Alexandria and Tanta, which killed 45. Isil claimed responsibility and threatened further attacks on the community.

The president has previously promised to protect the Christian minority - about 10pc of Egypt's 90 million people - from extremism. Security forces say they killed seven suspected Isil militants as the extremists met on Monday to plan an attack on a monastery in Durunka in Upper Egypt.

Outside of Cairo's St Mark's Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, a dozen high-ranking police officers are stationed on all entrances, searching cars and scanning the area, as security measures are visibly beefed up outside churches before Easter prayers on Sunday.

The usually festive occasion is tainted with fearful apprehension after twin bombings in two cities killed 45 Coptic Christians this week on Palm Sunday.

Irish Independent

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