Egyptian Copts fearful of further attacks during Christmas gatherings

Egypt’s Coptic community is living in fear of further attacks over the Christmas period after bombers targeted a packed Advent Mass at the community’s main cathedral in Cairo.

While there had been no claim of responsibility for the December 11 attack on St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral by the time The Irish Catholic went to press this week, Islamic militants were being widely blamed, with some observers pointing out that the blast occurred on the day celebrated as the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Twenty-five people, mainly women, died in the blast, while at least 49 others were injured.


Pope Francis was among the first to offer his sympathies to the Coptic community, using his Sunday audience to “express my special closeness to my dear brother, Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and to his community, praying for the dead and injured.”

Pope Tawadros II, who was undertaking an official visit to Greece at the time of the attack, cut short his trip and returned home to minister to his community and prepare for the first of the funerals, which took place at Cairo’s St Mary Church on Monday.

Security around those funerals was especially tight, not least because President Abdel Fatah al Sisi attended to demonstrate solidarity with Copts. As he attended, Egypt’s Interior Minister, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, condemned the attack and assured that the country’s security service would track down those behind it. 

“I made all measures and arrangements to arrest terrorists behind this sinful accident,” he said. “[The] perpetrators will not get away with their murder. Police will take them to court as soon as possible.”

Joining the voices condemning the bombing was the Cairo-based al Azhar University, the seat of Sunni learning in the Muslim world. In a statement, the university’s leaders denounced any attacks on a place of worship as “criminal acts that violate Islamic principles”. 

The militant group Hamas, which controls neighbouring Gaza condemned the bombing as a crime “that assists only the enemies of the Islamic and Arab nation”.