Our hearts and prayers go out to Egypt and its Coptic Christian community:
CAIRO — Two explosions at Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday left at least 36 people dead and injured dozens of others as a day of worship in the besieged Christian community turned to destruction and carnage.
The first blast ripped through St. George’s Church in northern Egypt in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo, during a Mass about 9:30 a.m., according to an official from the Health Ministry. The deputy minister of health put the death toll at 25.
Hours later, a suicide bomber set off an explosion outside the main Coptic church in Alexandria, St. Mark’s Cathedral, killing at least 11 — including three police officers — and injuring 21 others, the Health Ministry said.
The explosions followed a number of attacks by Islamic State militants targeting Egypt’s minority Christians. And on Sunday, the group claimed responsibilty for both bombings.
An online statement shared by sympathizers and attributed to the militants said: “A security detachment of the Islamic State carried out the attacks against the two churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.”
The bombings happened weeks before Pope Francis was to visit Egypt, and a week before Easter.
The second attack took place while worshipers at St. Mark’s were leaving at the end of Palm Sunday Mass. The service had been led by the Coptic pope, Tawadros II. The pope had already left when the explosion happened.