Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut said churches were 'too little prepared' for future attacks

More action is needed to protect Church communities in Egypt from attack, according to one of the country’s Catholic bishops, who has appealed for prayer for the victims of two bomb blasts targeting worshipers on Palm Sunday.

Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut, Upper Egypt, said he had met state security staff following Sunday’s attacks which left 44 dead and more than 120 injured in blasts at St George’s, Tanta and St Mark’s, Alexandria – both Coptic Orthodox churches.

Speaking in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Bishop William said that until now “our sense of security was not very strong”.

He said Sunday’s attacks were not altogether unexpected given recent attacks against churches in Egypt, notably last December’s blast at Ss Peter and Paul, in Cairo, the capital.

Referring to the need for increased security for the 550 churches in Assiut, he said: “Thank God, nothing has happened here so far but we are too little prepared for such events.”

The bishop said the representative of Egypt security he met advised the state and the people cooperate to improve protection at churches.

He added: “The security official made the suggestion that we could train the young people so that all resources could be pooled in order to increase security.”

Highlighting the many messages of sympathy he had received from around the world since yesterday’s attacks, he said: “Prayer is the most important thing we can ask for at this time.”

The bishop said Pope Francis’s trip to Egypt, scheduled for 28th – 29th April, is “more important than ever” and that the Pontiff had already “shown the courage, precisely in such circumstances, to come and strengthen the people”.

The bishop said that, in spite of the shock and outrage, he was convinced Christians would not leave the country en masse, as they have in Iraq and Syria.

He said: “The people feel a close bond with their country and all of them see themselves as Egyptians – whether they are Christians or Muslims.

“There is a stronger sense of solidarity among the population here than elsewhere.”

In a message to Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), who has travelled to Egypt in times of crisis, said: “My dear Bishop Angaelos – you and your dear people have been and are in our prayers.

“Your faith and witness amidst such violence and suffering inspire us all.

“May Our Blessed Lady watch over you, protect and console you and your faithful people at this time.”