Egypt's Coptic Christians Observe Somber Christmas After Church Bombing

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah DalshCoptic priests pray during Egypt's Coptic Christmas eve mass in a church of the Samaan el-Kharaz Monastery in the Mokattam Mountain area of Cairo, Egypt January 6, 2017.

Millions of Coptic Christians marked Christmas amid tightened security across Egypt this weekend while still mourning the more than two dozen victims of last month's suicide bombing during a Sunday mass in Cairo.

St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo's Abbassyia district, where a bomb explosion left at least 28 dead and 49 injured on Dec. 11, held a Christmas service Saturday, based on the ancient Julian calendar, just as other Coptic churches across the country did.

However, the spirit of celebration was missing.

"There is no Christmas for us," Samir Abdo, whose 10-year-old granddaughter, Maggie, died in the bombing, told The Washington Post. "The moment Maggie was taken to the hospital, the clock just stopped."

"No one feels festive. I haven't baked a cake," Agence France Presse quoted Labib, a 47-year-old mother of two who lives in the upscale Cairo district of Maadi, as saying. "Fear grips me each time one of my three children goes out."

Labib's daughter, Marina Najji, said, "This is not a happy holiday and I hope it will pass without any problem."

The faith of Copts, who make up about one-tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million, still remains strong though. "Every time they bomb a church or attack us, they increase our faith," Tawil, 53, told the Los Angeles Times.

"I will tell the people at my church to pray for those who attack them," Bishop Makarios, the head of the Coptic diocese in Minya province, said in an interview last week, according to the Post. "To love thy enemies, to forgive, and to pray to God to extract evil and darkness from their hearts, not just for the sake of Christians, but all of Egypt."

The blast at St. Peter and St. Paul church, also known as El-Botroseya which is attached to the St. Mark's Cathedral complex, targeted the church's ladies section. The Islamic State terror group, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The church was built in 1911 on the tomb of Boutros Ghali, Egypt's prime minister from 1908 to 1910.

The Al-Azhar Sunni Islamic seminary called it a "terrorist attack" that is against Islam. "Targeting houses of worship and the killing of the innocents are criminal acts that violate Islamic principles," it said in a statement.

(Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)Egyptian Christians react during the funeral of victims killed in the bombing at Cairo's Coptic cathedral, at the Mokattam Cemetery in Cairo, Egypt, December 12, 2016.