12/12/2016, 15.26
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Francis calls Tawadros II to convey his condolences and solidarity to Copts and victims

by Loula Lahham

Pope expressed his closeness to the affected community, especially women and children who represent the largest number of victims. He mentioned the blood ecumenism of martyrs and offered prayers for peace in Egypt and the world. Funerals took place in Cairo led by Patriarch Tawadros II. The attackers "have offended an entire nation."

Cairo (AsiaNews) – This morning, Pope Francis called His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, to express his condolences for yesterday's attack against the Coptic Cathedral of St Mark in Abbassia, Cairo, this according to a statement issued by Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office.

The pope expressed "his closeness" to the Patriarch and the Coptic community "so badly hit, especially to women and children, who represent the largest number of victims. He stressed that “We are united in the blood of our martyrs”, and promised to pray for the Coptic community in the Mass he was going to celebrate today, feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The patriarch, the note went on to say, mentioned the pope's expression pronounced during their meeting at the Vatican, namely “blood ecumenism”. He thanked Pope Francis "for his closeness" at such a difficult time and asked to him "pray for them and for peace in Egypt", promising to "convey his condolences to the entire Coptic community."

Today, a mass funeral was held for the victims of the explosion that yesterday hit the Cairo church. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II led the service and pronounced a long homily.

"The Egyptian Church,” the patriarch said, “has been characterised in the course of its entire history by martyrs, young, old, and even children. Hence the nickname of 'the Church of the martyrs', which dates back to the earliest centuries of Christianity."

After the funeral, broadcast by several TV stations, the Coptic pope spoke to the thousands of faithful who came to bid their last farewell to the 23 victims of the attack and said that their souls are not dead, that they are only sleeping in the hope of resurrection.

His Holiness expressed his "deep sorrow" noting that the perpetrators of this terrible attack against the St Peter Church put aside their human nature and feelings. "They have offended an entire nation,” he said. “The disaster is that of all Egyptians."

Following the blast, various political, government and religious leaders, including the leaders of the Catholic Church, condemned unreservedly the act.

Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s highest Sunni Muslim authority, cancelled yesterday evening’s celebrations marking the birth of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, in solidarity with the Coptic community.

Pope Tawadros II ended his sermon noting that the dead entered into the glory of heaven and the heavenly Father, whilst in prayer and meditation. These innocent victims, the patriarch noted, "were in contact with God and theirs was an open heart."

The funeral saw the participation of many ambassadors and diplomats accredited to Egypt, as well as officials from the country’s Churches, Vatican representatives and dozens of government officials and leaders.

The funeral was held in the church of the Virgin Mary in Nasr City, in east Cairo, to avoid gatherings of believers and sympathisers in the area where the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate is located. For the authorities, this was done for security reasons connected to yesterday’s attack.

The Egyptian government also declared three days of national mourning.

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