Church In Cairo Suicide Bomb Blast Fully Restored - Right Down To The Icons

ReutersRelatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral, carry her body to bury at the Mokattam Cemetery in Cairo, Egypt on December 12, 2016. The church has now been fully restored

An Egyptian church in which a suicide bomber killed 27 people on 11 December has been fully restored, the Coptic news site Watani reports.

The Boutrossiya chapel, which lies next door to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo, was restored following a pledge from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that it would be ready for Coptic Christmas celebrations on 7 January.

A week ahead of that the church, which is consecrated to St. Peter and St. Paul, reopened on New Year's Eve.

On New Year's Day, the Coptic leader Pope Tawadros II presided over Mass and then met with the families of the victims of the attack over breakfast in the church hall.

It was initially reported that a woman had left a bag in the church which later exploded. But the Egyptian government later said that Mahmoud Shafik, a 22-year-old radicalised Muslim, had detonated a suicide vest at the scene. Three of his accomplices were arrested.

For the reopening, some of the walls and columns were left pockmarked by shrapnel from the blast, as a "testimony and remembrance" of the victims.

The Armed Forces' construction department carried out the major repairs, to the wooden roof, the doors and the windows.

Damaged chandeliers were replaced by old-style ones that had been kept in storage, and new pews and drapes were brought in.

Meanwhile, a team of Italian specialists in icon restoration are handling the delicate work on the icons which date back to the outset of the 20th century and were painted by the Italian Primo Panciroli, Watani reported.

At the time of the attack, Pope Tawadros II denounced it as "not just a disaster for the church but a disaster for the whole nation".

He added: "Those who commit acts such as this do not belong to Egypt at all, even if they are on its land."

Those killed in the blast were given a state funeral, attended by Sisi.

But there is reportedly a growing feeling among many Copts that Sisi is presiding over a culture of impunity among those who attack Christians in Egypt, especially in towns like that of Minya, 140 miles south of Cairo.

Christians were repeatedly targeted in Minya during 2016.

In May, a 70-year-old woman in the town of Karam was paraded naked through the streets after being accused of having an affair with a Muslim.

A database compiled by the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy lists 54 incidents against religious minorities in Egypt during last year.