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The New Arab

Egypt Church curtails Easter celebrations after bombings

IS claimed responsibility for the attacks on churches in Tanta and Alexandria [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 12 April, 2017

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Egypt's Coptic Church announced on Wednesday it would cut back Easter celebrations to a simple mass after twin bombings killed 45 worshippers last weekend.
Egypt's Coptic Church announced on Wednesday it would cut back Easter celebrations to a simple mass after twin bombings killed 45 worshippers last weekend.

"Given the current circumstances and our solidarity with the families of the dead, we are going to limit our celebrations to Easter mass," a statement said.

The traditional handing out of sweets to children by Coptic Pope Tawadros II before the start of Easter mass on Sunday will also be cancelled.

"There will be no decorations in churches and the rooms normally reserved for the reception of worshipers wishing to exchange season's greetings will remain closed," an official at the Coptic patriarchate told AFP.

Islamic State [IS] group claimed responsibility for the bombings at churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, and threatened further attacks against Egypt's Christian minority.

Sunday's first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, north of Cairo, killed 28 people.

The second struck outside Saint Mark's church in Alexandria, killing 17 people after a suicide bomber was prevented from entering the building.

Pope Tawadros II had led a Palm Sunday service in the church shortly before.

"These church bombings were the savage work of extremists who have no regard for the sanctity of life," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"The deep-rooted sectarianism in many places in Egypt provides the climate where this hateful ideology can fester, but states of emergency have been the path to more abuses, not greater protection for Christian lives."

The violence comes ahead of Catholic Pope Francis's first visit to Egypt, which a Vatican official said will go ahead as planned on April 28 and 29 despite the attacks.

Meanwhile, Egypt's government voted unanimously to approve a decree by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ordering a three-month state of emergency.

Egypt's emergency law, which dates to 1958, gives the authorities sweeping powers to arrest, detain, try, and sentence suspects with almost no judicial review. 

Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million, have been targeted several times in recent months.

In December, at least 27 people were killed – mostly women and children – by a blast near the Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral complex. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Agencies contributed to this report

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