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Pope won't cancel visit to Egypt despite Palm Sunday bombings

Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Egyptian priests react during the funeral of victims of the Palm Sunday bombings, at St. Mina Coptic Orthodox Monastery 'Deir Mar Mina' in Alexandria, Egypt April 10, 2017.

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will push through with his visit to Cairo this month despite the two deadly bomb attacks on two churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday.

At least 45 people were killed in the two suicide bombings that targeted St. George's Coptic Church in the city of Tanta and St. Mark's Coptic Church in Alexandria.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying, "crusaders and their apostate allies should know the bill between us and them is very big, and they will pay it with rivers of blood from their children, god willing. Wait for us, for we will wait for you."

The pope condemned the bombings and called for prayers for the victims during his Angelus address following the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Square.

"I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to the family members [of the deceased and injured] and to the entire community," the pope said, according to National Catholic Register.

"May the Lord convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic weapons," he continued.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that the pontiff will push through with his Cairo visit that was scheduled for April 28 to 29.

Pope Francis intends to share a message of solidarity with the Coptic Church and make a firm appeal for dialogue, peace, and reconciliation with Islamic institutions and Egyptian society.

On April 28, the pontiff will make a courtesy visit to the grand imam of Al-Azhar University, the principal theological learning center for Sunni Islam. About 1,000 people will be able to attend the event, during which the pope and the imam, Ahmed el-Tayeb, will address participants of an international conference on peace.

The Vatican Gendarmerie will be protecting the pope during his visit, while the Egyptian army and the police will be responsible for the security and vigilance in the city.

Coptic Catholic Archbishop Emeritus Antonios Aziz Mina of Guizeh said that the pontiff is not at risk as the security measures will be "very high."

Following the attacks, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi declared a three-month state of emergency and ordered the formation of the Supreme Council to Combat Terrorism and Fanaticism.

Some churches have canceled Easter celebrations this year following the twin Palm Sunday bombings. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese stated that this week's celebrations will be limited to just liturgical prayers "without any festive manifestations."

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