Egyptian Coptic priest delivers inspiring Christian message to bombers: 'Thank you, we are praying for you'

Egyptians attend the funerals of victims of the Palm Sunday bombings at St Mina Coptic Orthodox Monastery  in Alexandria, Egypt April 10, 2017.Reuters

A Coptic priest in Egypt has delivered an inspirational message preaching Christian love and forgiveness in the wake of the Palm Sunday bombings in Alexandria and Tanta that killed at least 47 and injured dozens more.

Fr Boules George of St Mark, Cleopatra church in Cairo addressed the Islamist attackers directly, thanking them for allowing the faithful martyrs' deaths and for filling the churches on the Monday of Holy Week, the day after the bombings. Fr George also told the bombers that they were loved by Christians because of Jesus' teaching to love your enemies, and that the attackers were being prayed for.

'The first thing we will say is "Thank you very, very much," and you won't believe us when we say it,' said Fr George. 'You know why we thank you? I'll tell you. You won't get it, but please believe us. You gave us to die the same death as Christ – and this is the biggest honour we could have. Christ was crucified – and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered – and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die...We thank you because you shortened for us the journey...

'Thank you for helping us achieve our goal. You're helping us, and you don't even know it. I know you don't understand, but I'm trying to explain it to you. There are people we visited at home to encourage them to come to church – three, four, five times. Still they won't come. What you're doing here – you're bringing to church the people who never come. Believe me – it's bringing to church the people who never come!...

'Let's speak plainly here... Usually attendance at the Eve of Monday Pascha (Monday before Easter) is very little. People are usually so tired after a long Palm Sunday Liturgy and the General Funeral, and they don't come to the Eve of Monday services. When I came in tonight, there were people on chairs outside the sanctuary, there were people in the balcony seating. The church is completely full. There isn't even one empty nook. Thank you. We are so grateful that you're helping fill up our churches...

'Can you see why we thank you? We're not being deceptive. A priest holding a microphone can't lie to you! I say to you: thank you. Thank you for all you have done for us without even noticing.'

The priest then went on to outline why Christians love their enemies.

'The second part of the message we want to send to you is that we love you. And this, unfortunately, you won't understand at all. Maybe you won't believe us when we say we're grateful. But this – you won't even understand,' he said. 'Why won't you understand it? Because this too is a teaching of our Christ. I want to explain to you about our Christ. I want to tell you about how wonderful he is.

'See what Christ said: If you love those who love you, you have no profit or reward with me. Even thugs and thieves love those who love them. Any gang loves its members. Even the drug dealers all like each other and take care of each other. Right? But I want to tell you that "if you love those who love you, what reward have you... But I say to you, love your enemies" (Matthew 5:46, 44).

'We Christians don't have enemies. We don't have enemies; others make enmity with us. The Christian doesn't make enemies because we are commanded to love everyone. And so, we love you because this is the teaching of our God – that I'm to love you – no matter what you do to me.

'I love you very much. And I want to say one last thing to you: we're praying for you. Because the One who told us to love you told us to "bless those who curse you... and pray for those who spitefully use you" (Matthew 5:44). So my instructions from my loving God make it my duty to pray for you.

Fr  George concluded: 'I'm embarrassed to say at the beginning of Holy Week that the Church, though she is in pain, rejoices because today – I don't know what the final count is. They said 40-something, and, of course, many people in the hospitals will catch up to them. All of these are crowns. They are rejoicing with God. And they will attend the Resurrection up there. And they are praying for us. The rest is on us. O, you lucky, lucky, lucky ones! And until it is our turn. To our God be the glory now and forever. Amen.'

A translation of the speech featured on the 'Coptic dad and mom' blog site.

It came as Egypt's Ministry of Interior yesterday identified the suicide bomber responsible for Sunday's deadly attack at Alexandria's St Mark's Cathedral which killed 17, as 30-year-old Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdallah.

The ministry said that Abdallah was an associate of Amr Saad Abbas Ibrahim, a fugitive who is the leader of a terrorist cell that orchestrated last December's deadly suicide bombing of Cairo's St Peter and St Paul's Church, which killed 29, mostly women and children.