Pope Francis sends condolences for Coptic church fire in Egypt
By Devin Watkins
A deadly blaze broke out during Mass on Sunday in the Coptic Orthodox church of Abu Sefein in Giza, killing at least 41 people.
Bishop Abdul Bahkit was among those who died, along with many children.
Pope Francis sent his condolences to Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, on Thursday, in a telegram signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.
The Pope said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the tragic event, especially the death of the bishop and the many children.
Pope Francis offered his “heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to the injured and those affected by this tragedy”.
He also entrusted the victims and their families “to the merciful love of almighty God” and invoked upon all “consolation and strength in the Lord.”
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said the fire started in the second-floor air conditioning as a result of an electrical malfunction.
Smoke inhalation was the main cause of death, according to the ministry. Witnesses said the fire blocked the church’s main entrance, leading to a stampede.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi tweeted his condolences for the victims.
“I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims that have passed on to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship,” he said.
A funeral was held for the dead at a cemetery later on Sunday in Giza, which lies across the Nile River from Cairo and is Egypt’s second-largest city.