India’s Catholic Church has strongly condemned the suicide bomb attacks at two Coptic churches in northern Egypt on Palm Sunday killing at least 44 people and expressed its closeness with Egypt’s Christians and people. “Such inhuman acts cannot be tolerated and while we welcome the decision of the Egyptian Government to declare a three month Emergency, we also hope that the perpetrators of this brutal inhuman acts will be traced and punished,” wrote Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) wrote in a statement issued on Monday.
Suicide bombers struck hours apart at St. George’s Church in Tanta city and St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria on April 9, killing 44 people and turning Palm Sunday services into scenes of blood, horror and outrage. However, Coptic Pope Tawadros II who was leading the Palm Sunday service in St. Mark’s was unhurt. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the violence, and warned of more to come. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose difficulties in protecting Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, have been exposed, has called for a three-month state of emergency.
“The Catholic Church in India also shares and reiterates the expression of profound grief of His Holiness, Pope Francis, following the Church attacks,” Bishop Mascarenhas wrote. Pope Francis, at the conclusion of the Palm Sunday Mass in Rome expressed his deep condolences to Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic Church and the Egyptian nation. “I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members and to the entire community,” the Pope said. Bishop Mascarenhas also wrote, “To His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to the Coptic Church and to all citizens of the dear country, Egypt, we convey our deep condolences, as the Catholic Church in India is deeply concerned and express our solidarity with the Coptic Church in Egypt and offers prayers in this time of great sorrow and distress.” The Indian bishops expressed their sorrow for the dead and the wounded as they offered their condolences and remained in solidarity with the families and with the entire community. The CBCI Secretary General said, “The Catholic Church in India strongly condemns violence in any form especially all cowardly terrorist activities against innocents wherever and in whatever form it takes place.” “We pray that God may convert the hearts of the people who spread terror, violence and atrocities,” Bishop Mascarenhas added.
The violence that also left 126 people wounded came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit and meet Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, April 28-29. It was the single deadliest day for Christians in decades and the worst since a bombing at a Cairo church in December killed 30 people.
The word ‘Copt’ simply means ‘Egypt’. Making up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 90 million, the Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian denomination in the Muslim-majority country. The Coptic Orthodox Church is not in communion with Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholic Church, and claims St. Mark as its founder and first bishop. Egypt also has a tiny minority eastern rite Coptic Catholic Church, headed by patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak.