Coptic Christians Cut Back on Easter Celebrations After Palm Sunday Massacre; Pope Francis Still Coming

A general view is seen as Egyptians gather by a Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017.
A general view is seen as Egyptians gather by a Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 9, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Some churches in the Egyptian city of Minya said they will not hold, or will cut back on, Easter celebrations this year following the twin Palm Sunday bombings in Alexandria and Tanta, which killed 45 Christians.

According to The Independent, the Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese announced that Easter celebrations this week will be limited to just liturgical prayers "without any festive manifestations."

Egypt is observing a three-month state of emergency following the suicide bombings on Palm Sunday, which the Islamic State terror group took responsibility for.

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Pope Francis called for solidarity with Egypt's minority Coptic Christian population, which has been targeted by Islamic extremists for years now. The pope plans to go ahead with his visit to Cairo on April 28-29 despite the rising violence.

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, told journalists that "the Pope's trip to Egypt proceeds as scheduled," Catholic News Agency reported.

Franciscan Fr. Marco Tasca noted that the pontiff "very firmly confirmed his trip to Egypt," and that he is "very informed" on what is going on in the country.

The Vatican leader's visit will in part be focused on fostering Catholic-Muslim dialogue, aiming to halt the stream of violence that has been directed toward Christians in the country, who make up only 10 percent of the population.

Father Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Egyptian bishops, also affirmed that Francis has reassured them of his upcoming visit.

"The pope's mission is to be beside his brothers at the time of difficulty. Now is the real time that he can bring peace and hope to the Egyptian people as a whole and to the Christians of the East, in particular," Grieche said, according to Catholic News Service.

Despite the reported subdued Easter celebrations and cancellations, Grieche noted that Christians will not stop going to church, even if they have to go through metal detectors and other security measures.

"It's not like going to a normal church. But we need these measures to keep people safe," he said, noting that even after the suicide bombings, he celebrated Mass with 2,000 people.

"The people knew already about the attack in Tanta, but they did not want to be afraid. In the evening, they also came for the prayers of the Holy Week," Grieche said.

David Curry, CEO and President of Open Door USA, told The Christian Post on Tuesday that despite the pain and shock, faith remains strong among the Copts.

"The Copts are an inspiring group that has been under so much pressure for their faith and yet they are standing strong and really showing the love of Jesus in the face of great opposition," Curry said, adding that the people are "determined to celebrate Holy Week, to celebrate Easter and keep the focus on Jesus."

Curry suggested that the violence Orthodox Christians are facing is bringing them back to discover who Jesus was.

"Because ultimately the spiritual strength that comes from Jesus is the only thing that will help you in moments of tragedy like this," Curry told CP.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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