Catholic leaders in England have united in prayer with the Coptic community after deadly explosions in two Coptic churches in Egypt.
‘It is with deep sorrow and sadness that we learned of the bombing of St George’s Coptic church (Mar Girgis) in the city of Tanta in the Nile Delta, and the explosion outside St Mark’s Coptic church in Alexandria,’ read a statement from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Bernard Longley and Archbishop Emeritus Kevin McDonald – Catholic Members of the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Forum.
‘Both blasts took place during a Palm Sunday service, where traditionally palm branches are blessed as a symbol of peace. Nothing can justify these atrocious acts of terrorism,’ the statement continued.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Coptic community across the world and the people of Egypt.
‘We have sent an assurance of our prayers and a message of support to Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.’
Suicide bombers struck hours apart at the two Coptic churches in northern Egypt, killing 44 people and turning Palm Sunday services into scenes of horror.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the violence, adding to fears extremists are shifting their focus to civilians, especially Egypt’s Christian minority.
The attacks in the northern cities of Tanta and Alexandria 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.
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.
Late Sunday night, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called for a three-month state of emergency.
The Cabinet has since said it has approved the presidential decision to declare a state of emergency across the country for three months. It came into effect at 1pm on Monday.
Picture: People gather outside St George’s Church after a deadly suicide bombing, in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, Egypt, on Sunday 9th April 2017. Bombs exploded at two Coptic churches in the northern Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria as worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday, killing over 40 people and wounding scores more in assaults claimed by Daesh. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty).