09/14/2013, 00.00
EGYPT
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Minya: wedding breathes new life into church destroyed by Islamists

Mina and Justina are two young members of the Prince Tadros Coptic Orthodox Parish Church. Following their insistence and that of their families, local priests agreed to let them use the church made unsafe by an Islamist attack. In order to create a festive atmosphere for the newlyweds, the community decorated the interior of the building at their own expense. "From childhood, this was our church," the couple said. "This is where we grew up", where the "priests taught us to pray . . . . Now we are happy."

Minya (AsiaNews) - A young couple got married in the church where they were baptised, a garden table for an altar, carpets and icons provided by various families in lieu of the sacred ornaments destroyed by Islamists, the building itself turned into a shell on 14 August.

Mina and Justina are young Copts from Minya (Upper Egypt) who were supposed to celebrate their wedding in the Prince Tadros Parish Church, one of the city's most important, but their dream was crushed when members of the Muslim Brotherhood attacked the local Christian community (see video).

"The fire set by Islamists has destroyed everything, even the huge iron chandelier hanging from the centre of the ceiling," said Macarius, Bishop of Minya, in an interview with el-Badil, an Arabic-language newspaper. "Columns were hot for days," he added.

In the end, the authorities had to declare the building unfit for use, the prelate said; yet, within a few days, residents were already clamouring to return to their church to pray.

The marriage between Mina and Justina was just an opportunity to bring the Christian pastoral ministry back to the centre of community life.

The young couple was told that they could marry in the churchyard, Bishop Macarius said, because smoke and soot still hung in the air inside the church, which itself was in danger of collapsing. Nonetheless, bride and groom refused, saying that their families wanted a church wedding.

The couple's parents and friends decked out the ruins. Guests brought chairs from home and those who had not had their carpets, curtains and lamps stolen brought those as well.

About 60 people attended the service held in early September. At the end, the bishop invited the newlyweds and their families to offer their joy and their prayers to the Christians of Minya and to their persecuted Church.

After Mass, a crew from el-Badil interviewed the couple, asking them why they had insisted on getting married in the building and their feelings in front of the nave full of people.

"From childhood, this was our church," they explained. "This is where we grew up. [This is where] Priests taught us to pray . . . . Now we are happy."

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