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World News

'They've grown up together, they're friends': Archbishop Angaelos says church fire in Egypt will devastate the local Coptic community

by Donna Birrell

The Coptic Archbishop of London has urged Christians to pray for the victims of a church fire in Egypt.

At least 41 people died in the blaze at the Coptic Abu Sefein church in Giza Sunday morning.

Eighteen children, aged between three and 16, are reported to be among the dead and dozens of people were injured. 

The blaze is believed to have been caused by an electrical fire.

Archbishop Angaelos told Premier about the tragedy which happened as worshippers gathered for Sunday Mass:

"The Coptic Orthodox Church is one that really values liturgical worship. So our churches are full of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people who gather sometimes every day, but definitely every Sunday. At this time we have the Fast of St. Mary which leads up to the Feast of St. Mary next week and it's a time very beloved by many of our faithful and so the churches will be even fuller in some respects. 

"So that it's a wonderful thing, but it also contributed to the tragedy because there were so many people there. So many people lost their lives, some in the flames, some through suffocation and some exiting the building. We have also heard there may have been a delay in fire-fighters getting there, which could have added to that. In any event, I think there will be time for investigations and for those questions to be answered."

Funerals have been taking place for the victims since Sunday evening. Archbishop Angaelos said the fire will decimate families and the whole community:

"It's a very, very sad day for those communities, you can imagine multiple members of single families, and even if not, these are very close knit communities. I think if you think of your local Church of England rural parish or village parish, that's the kind of vibe. So everyone knows each other, they've grown up together, they're friends, they're almost extended family. I think we need to pray for them at the moment.

"At times like this, when it's just so raw, there is very little we can say that makes a difference. We need to give time for people to grieve. Because grieving in and of itself is healthy when it's done properly. It's a way of expression. It's a way of us coming to terms with our feelings. But I think also find that in our faith in Christ and in the resurrection. The fact that he does give an incredible grace for those who suffer, that carries them through that suffering, will show that he will not leave them that he does not leave us, he does not abandon us. These are promises that he makes.

"While I don't think anyone fully recovers from the loss of a loved one, if there is enough grace to put that into perspective and to be able to see life as a journey, then these 41 people have reached their destination. As far as we know, they're in paradise. They're awaiting us all. And we give thanks for their lives and we pray for those who will be mourning terribly today."

You can read more about the Egypt church fire here :


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