The news that a bomb containing 12 kilos of TNT and filled with ball-bearings had exploded in St. Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Abbeseya, Cairo, during the morning Liturgy on Sunday, 11 December, only broke for many people after they themselves were leaving their churches. Such an atrocity, committed with blasphemous and evil intent, whilst pious souls – including many women and children – were struck down as they met together for communion with their God. The response, not only of churchmen, but of senior Muslim clerics, is universal horror and revulsion, recalling the late Pope Shenouda’s saying that religion has no part with violence. Speaking after hearing the news, whilst leaving the Church at Chatham, Abba Seraphim commented that this was clearly a “Satanic attack, the fruit of hatred, cruelty, intolerance, strife and every evil which foments violence.”
The Coptic Church has a long history of being the victim of violence, which has produced a multitude of glorious martyrs, but like the Crucified Saviour, has never responded in kind. The Egyptian government acted promptly by offering facilities for the injured at military hospitals whilst the public sympathy of the President, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and other ministers recognises and respects the unity of all Egyptians, regardless of their religious affiliation. The proclamation of three days of national mourning invites all Egyptians to unite in condemning such violence.
St. Peter’s Church (al Boutrosiyah) forms part of the Cathedral complex of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate and stands next to St. Mark’s Cathedral, although its entrance is on Rameses Street. It brings violence very close to the heart of the Coptic Church, although His Holiness Pope Tawadros II was absent at the time on a pastoral visit to Greece, from which he immediately returned home to share the grief of his people.
The British Orthodox Church shares the grief of the worldwide Coptic Community and prays for the injured and the departed, as well as praying that peace and prosperity may soon be restored to Egypt, a country which has many historic links with the British Isles, whose past has so richly contributed to the civilisation of the world. Abba Seraphim has sent a message of condolence to H.H. Pope Tawadros and on Sunday, 18 December Requiem Prayers for the departed victims will be prayed in all British Orthodox churches.