.- After a bomb blast killed nearly 30 people during Palm Sunday celebrations in Egypt, Pope Francis voiced his closeness to the Coptic community, and prayed for those who perpetrate violence through the arms trade.
After celebrating Palm Sunday Mass April 9, Pope Francis prayed for victims of “the attack that unfortunately took place today near Cairo,” voicing his closeness to Tawardos II, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, and to the Egyptian nation.
“I express my heartfelt sorrow,” he said, praying that the Lord would “convert the hearts of those who sow fear, violence and death, and those who make and traffic arms.”
The Pope’s words came shortly after a bomb attack on St. George's Coptic Orthodox parish in Tanta, nearly 60 miles north of Cairo.
Islamic extremists target St George Cathedral, Tanta Egypt. Over 20 martyrs & 59 injured. It's becoming our regular gift before feasts.— Bishop Suriel (@BishopSuriel) April 9, 2017
Worshippers had already packed the area to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass when the bomb was detonated. 28 were killed in the blast.
A second blast took place shortly after, outside St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Catheral in Alexandria, killing 17. A suicide bomber had tried to storm the entrance to the church before being stopped by police, three of whom died in the blast. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
The bombings took place just two weeks before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Egyptian captial of Cairo April 28-29 in what is largely a bid to foster greater Catholic-Muslim dialogue, particularly on the point of ending extremist violence.
Francis offered his words of sorrow before leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer after Mass.
In his brief words before the prayer, he offered a special greeting to all those participating in WYD and their bishops, particularly those from Poland and Panama, and the Church and civil authorities who accompanied them to the Mass.
He also prayed for victims of the terrorist attacks that took place Friday, April 7, in Stockholm, when a 39-year-old Uzbek-native drove a large lorry truck into a department store, killing four and wounding 10, including a child.
Francis offered prayers for the victims as well as the many who are “still strongly tried by war, the tragedy of mankind.”
This article was updated at 5:30 p.m. local time with information on the Alexandria bombing and the latest death toll in Tanta.