What was supposed to be a joyous day for families turned into a bloodbath as a suicide bombing killed 29 people at St George’s Church in Tanta, between Cairo and Alexandria.
Hours later, a second bombing outside St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria killed 16 people as they left a Palm Sunday liturgy officiated by Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, who was not among those injured.
The so-called Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which seem to have been deliberately timed to mar Palm Sunday – a commemoration of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem that is one of the Christian calendar’s holiest days.
The UK’s Coptic Church is based at Stephalbury Manor, off Broadhall Way in Stevenage – and its head Bishop Angaelos has denounced the ‘senseless and heartless brutality’ of those who indiscriminately take innocent lives.
The bishop said: “Today we suffer with our sisters and brothers who have experienced losses in London, in Stockholm, and as well as those who continue to suffer on a daily basis across the Middle East.
“We pray for them and their families as well as their suffering and struggling communities.
“We pray for His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and all our Coptic clergy in Egypt who continue to serve their spiritual children faithfully and diligently at a time in which their leadership and pastoral care is needed by our whole community.
“We also pray for our Coptic Orthodox sisters and brothers who continue to be resilient in the face of ongoing and escalating attacks, and who resist the urge to react vengefully or reciprocally.”
He added: “As we celebrate Palm Sunday today and Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, we now also mark the entry of those who have passed today into the heavenly Jerusalem.
“As we continue into the holy week of our saviour, we share in the pain and heartbreak of their families and of all those affected by today’s incidents.
“As we celebrate the feast of the glorious resurrection at the end of this week, we are reminded that our life here on earth is a journey often filled with pain, at the end of which is a promised glorious and eternal life void of such suffering and evil.”
Today’s bombings came after a blast at Cairo’s Coptic cathedral during a service in December last year, which killed 25 people – mainly women and children.
So-called Islamic State terrorists claimed responsibility for that atrocity as well.
In addition to killing at least 45 people, today’s attacks injured at least 71 people in Tanta and 35 others in Alexandria, according to Egypt’s health ministry.
And Egypt’s president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has this evening announced a three-month state of emergency.
Bishop Angaelos was inside the Houses of Parliament during last month’s London terror attack, after which he said he was struck by the ‘instinctive and immense courage’ of those around him.
He was among the many faith leaders who came together to show solidarity at Trafalagar Square two days later.