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The New Arab

Egypt's Copts mark Good Friday in wake of tragedy

The twin church bombings were the deadliest attacks on Copts in recent memory [NurPhoto]

Date of publication: 14 April, 2017

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Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II led Good Friday mass at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo days after twin church bombings that killed 46 worshipers as they celebrated Palm Sunday.
Egypt's Coptic Christians flocked to Churches nationwide on Friday to commemorate Jesus Christ's crucifixion amid tightened security in the wake of twin church bombings that were the deadliest attacks on the minority in recent memory.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II led the Good Friday mass, which continues until 6:00 pm, at the St Mark Cathedral in central Cairo.

The ceremony was attended by hundreds of worshippers and a host of bishops and priests.

Police patrols, civil defence vehicles, bomb squads and national security forces surrounded the Cathedral, the scene of a deadly bomb attack in December that left 25 people dead.

Good Friday, also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, or Easter Friday is observed during Holy Week preceding Easter Sunday.

On Wednesday, Egypt's Coptic Church announced it would cut back Easter celebrations to a simple mass after twin bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Tanta and Alexandria killed 46 worshipers and injured more than 100 others as they celebrated Palm Sunday.

"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 at the time.

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

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the bombings and threatened further attacks against Egypt's Christian minority.

The bombing came ahead of Catholic Pope Francis's first visit to Egypt, which a Vatican official said would go ahead as planned on 28 and 29 April 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.

Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have endured successive attacks since the ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 military coup, led by then defence minister Sisi.

More than 40 churches were targeted nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on 14 August that year, Human Rights Watch said.

They face exclusion from high-level public posts, including the military, and sectarian violence is common.

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