Pope Francis prayed for comfort for the victims of the Islamic States’ Friday attack on an Egyptian church and for terrorists’ conversions, in his penultimate 2017 address.
Francis, head of the Catholic Church, prayed Sunday that God would “convert the hearts” of terrorists who plotted and carried out the Friday attack against Mar Mina Coptic Church in Cairo and others who seek similar acts of violence, according to Crux Now. Francis also asked God to comfort and care for the survivors of the attack and the families of the nine people who the gunman killed.
“I express my closeness to the Coptic Orthodox brothers of Egypt, struck two days ago by two attacks on a church and a business on the outskirts of Cairo,” Francis said, according to Crux. “May the Lord welcome the souls of the dead, sustain the injured, their families and the entire community, and convert the hearts of the violent.”
Francis made the comments during his last Angelus address of 2017, followed afterward by his evening New Year’s vespers and his visit to the Nativity in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
The Pope expressed his condolences, however, Cairo residents and Christian worshipers who witnessed the Friday attack recounted Sunday how the brave actions of the Coptic congregation and neighbors prevented the ISIS-affiliated gunman from accomplishing further bloodshed, according to The Associated Press.
Egyptian government-run media initially praised the police for preventing the gunman from entering the church, but it was the surviving congregants who closed the church’s iron gate, a 53-year-old neighbor who jumped on the gunman as he reloaded, and the crowd of residents who threw rocks and glass bottles that ultimately prevented a massacre of the Coptic congregation.
Police arrived 10 minutes after the nearly 20-minute attack and gunned the terrorist down. Authorities prevented residents from bashing the gunman’s head in with a rock so that they could arrest and question him.
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