Egypt, Catholic Church spokesman: Attacks cast a shadow on Easter and the Pope's visit

Father Rafic Greiche emphasizes that terrorists "are stealing the joy of the feast." In spite of a climate of fear, yesterday churches across the country were packed with faithful. The government has declared a state of emergency. Need to strengthen intelligence work. He adds: Hard to know when, but "there will be more attacks."

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The atmosphere in Egypt is "heavy", the explosions and the victims of yesterday have "cast a shadow" on the upcoming Easter celebrations, the terrorists "are stealing the joy of the feast." In this Holy Week, the Christian community "is experiencing the passion of Jesus Christ," with a mixture of "fear and sadness”, says Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, commenting on yesterday's attacks at the church of Tanta and Alessandria, which caused dozens of deaths and over a hundred injured, claimed by the Islamic State (IS). "In spite of a climate of fear - continues the priest - last night the churches were still packed with people. In my church more than 2 thousand people were present, the faithful took part in the Mass; Christians are accustomed violence” .

Reactions continue to pour in to the explosions, claimed by Daesh jihadists [Arabic acronym for the SI], although some observers speak of "complicity" of the Muslim Brotherhood. "The security measures have increased - said Fr. Rafic - and we, pastors and community leaders, we try to be highly vigilant. In the second attack, in Alexandria, patriarch Coptic Orthodox Tawadros II was also present. It is the second time they have targeted the pope after the attack in Dicember. It's a message to show that they are 'close', they can even hit at high levels. "

The government declared a state of emergency; a measure that will remain in force for the next three months as stated by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, giving the go-ahead for arrests and searches without warrants. "The response of the authorities is late - said the spokesman of the Egyptian Church - but this is an issue that unites all governments, when you react to an attack it is too late to remedy. "

The authorities have deployed more guards - soldiers and police - to guard the entrances of churches. Even the internal security of the various churches and Christian communities is at maximum levels. "Everyone is trying to do their best - highlights Fr. Rafic - but intelligence services need to be strengthened to prevent events like these it is necessary. " The problem, says the priest, is that "there was no adequate information gathering. Experts have not been able to collect data on these terrorist groups, with active cells and ready to strike. One person cannot carry out such attacks on his own. "

Meanwhile, the Muslim community has sent repeated messages of solidarity and condolences to Christians, saying that these attacks do not represent Islam and that the religion of Mohammed urges peace and harmony. "They are sincere in these manifestations of sympathy - said the spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church - especially the faithful, the common people who feel close in grief. There is a sincere participation. However, if you look at higher institutions, such as the University of al-Azhar they have never wanted to clearly state that is Daesh 'kuffar', a disbeliever. They say only that they are Muslims but not in the right way. For some time now we have been asking for clear-cut position in this regard. We must say that the terrorists are Islamic, but it's never been done. In fact so far they have done nothing to change the mentality of the people, of the fundamentalists who then turn into terrorists. "

Our thoughts then turn to Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Egypt, he held that "nobody wants to cancel or postpone" confirms Fr. Rafic. "The government will do everything to ensure his safety - says the priest - using this apostolic journey to send a strong message to the terrorists." Asked about possible attacks in the future, he says, "we do not know when they will happen" if during the Easter celebrations, during the Pope's visit or at another time, but what is certain is that "there will be more attacks."

"The atmosphere is dark, heavy – he concludes – it was not a Palm Sunday like any other. I told the faithful to go straight home, not to stop on the streets. Pray for us, helps Christians in Egypt feel your solidarity. The terrorists can strike again, and as we have seen many times, they can strike anywhere. "(DS)