Egypt’s Coptic community held a funeral service on Monday for 25 Christians killed in a bombing the previous day at a church next to the main cathedral in Cairo — one of the deadliest attacks targeting the country’s religious minority in recent memory.
The bomb went off during Sunday Mass at a chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of the ancient Coptic Orthodox church. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
The coffins of the victims were laid in front of the altar, with their names displayed on the side facing the congregation and on the church walls.
Candles and large big crosses made of white roses stood next to the coffins.
The spiritual leader of Egypt’s Orthodox Christians, Pope Tawadros II, led the service. At one point, the visibly distraught pontiff leaned on his staff and quietly prayed in front of the coffins. He had cut short a visit to Greece and flew home on Sunday after the bombing.
“God, protect us and your people from the conspiracies of the evil ones,” prayed the Coptic pope, who venerated the coffins with incense.
Only victims’ relatives were allowed to attend the service at the Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius church in the eastern Cairo suburb of Nasr City. Some of them screamed out in grief or shouted out a victim’s name, while the rest quietly sobbed or sat somberly during the service.
Outside the church, scores scuffled with security forces when they were barred from attending the service. An unspecified number of arrests were made, several witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety.