Last December, when a bomb exploded in Cairo, at the Coptic Church of St. Peter and St. Paul it went off where the women and children were seated, it was a tragedy so vile that even militants in the region denounced it.
Today, as they gathered for worship at the start of this holiest week in the Christian calendar, these Christians were once again targeted for death and mayhem, with ISIS taking credit.
The explosion happened during a live broadcast of the liturgy commemorating the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, and the security tape footage found elsewhere is chilling. The suicide bomber, unable to pass undiscovered through a metal detector, detonates. The blast is formidable.
Pope Francis, who is due to visit Egypt in a matter or weeks has denounced the attack.
All we can do as we watch the carnage from a distance is to recognize these martyrs in prayer:
O New Martyrs, slain at worship as we enter into our holiest days, you now number among the ancient holy ones. Before the throne of the Almighty, we beg you to keep us particularly in your prayers. Once again we are focused on the mysterious geography where humanity first came into being, and then into contact with the Reality of the One God — the lands where all will someday finally be revealed.
Today, we ponder why it is that our attention is continually turned to this region in gasping sorrow, all due to a malevolent force as old as Eden. We know that Christ Jesus is the Victor over death, and the Victor over evil, but we acknowledge that the victories come only by way of His Cross. O New Martyrs, you and the people of your region share in that Cross and we, in spirit, share it with you. In the presence of the Perfect Wisdom — the Holy, Mighty One who imparts all that is True, teach us to pray the words that will bring peace, if peace is possible, or to pray the words of pure worship, contrition and trust, if it is not.
Pray that we may learn how to become the peace we seek.
Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings.
Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us,
Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,
Saint Charbel Makhlouf, pray for us,
Saints Mariam Baouardy and Marie-Alphonsine of Palestine, pray for us,
Blessed Charles de Foucauld, pray for us,
All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.
If you want to support the suffering Christians of Egypt, a great organization is Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a 90-year-old papal agency that has extensive projects and programs that are offering many kinds of material and spiritual support to Eastern Catholics, including the Coptic Christians. (A poignant photo essay from their award-winning magazine last spring gives a glimpse of the world they serve in Egypt, while this profile from Suez shows some of the hardship and persecution Christians are confronting.) Visit this page to learn what you can do.