Cathedral dedicated to beheaded Coptic martyrs is inaugurated

Three years after the massacre of the 21 young Copts, a cathedral for the “martyrs of the faith” was completed in recent months. It is located in the small village of Al Ur in the province of Minya, the birthplace of the majority of the dead, in Upper Egypt. 20 of the Coptic martyrs had once been residents in Minya’s Samalut and Mattay villages, before they were kidnapped by IS militants in January 2015.

A Republican decree was issued in 2015 to open a church in their memory. The Cathedral of the Martyrs of the Faith was built by a group of engineers of the Egyptian Armed Forces paid for by the government, on an area of 4 thousand square meters, at a cost of about 10 million Egyptian pounds (about 45,700). It has two floors: a ground floor (with a library, a reception room and other rooms for social services) and a chapel on the upper floor.

“The State has kept its promises: it has taken care of the families of the dead and built the cathedral. We let justice take the place of revenge,” commented Samir Isaac Baddar, father of the late Essam Baddar.

The altars of the new cathedral were blessed on 14 Feb at a solemn inauguration by local bishop Amba Pavnatius. “The number of faithful who arrived here for the inauguration of the cathedral is crazy. It greatly surpasses the number of those who had come three years ago for the funerals of the martyrs. There were also Muslims,” said Marine Zaki, father of the late Milad Zaki.

The first mass was celebrated the following day Bishop Anba Befnosios of Samalut Church in Minya with the presence of the governor of the city. Makati Nagati, brother of the late Luka Nagati, and cousin of the late Essam Baddar said “I walked with my family for two kilometres in the cold this morning at 5 am to be present at the first mass of the new cathedral. I feel that my brother is always with us and has never left us.”

Dozens of Copts and families of the martyrs participated in the Mass in al-Our village. They raised the Egyptian flag on the church walls and placed depictions of prominent figures. Additionally, posters of Pope Twadros II, Bishop Benosios, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were hung in front of the church. The church is now open for weekly masses

The 21 Egyptian Copts were kidnapped in Libya in early January 2015. The video of their beheading on the Libyan close to the city of Sirte was posted online by jihadist sites on 15 February. Just a week after the horrific massacre, the Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II decided to register the 21 martyrs killed by ISIS in the Synaxarium, the book of the Marty celebrated on 15 February.

The families of the dead still await the results of DNA tests by the Egyptian authorities on the remains of the victims which were found in a cave in Sirte. A statement from the Libyan Interior Ministry said that the remains of the Egyptian Coptic martyrs were uncovered in October 2017. The bodies were found handcuffed and beheaded, dressed in the same orange outfits they wore in the video showing their brutal murder.

Once identification is confirmed, the remains will be kept on the ground floor of the Cathedral of the Martyrs in glass cases wrapped in velvet fabrics, according to the Coptic tradition.

ACN Malta