A delegation from the World Council of Churches, led by general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, on Jan. 8 visited in Cairo Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church and expressed condolences for the New Year’s Day church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt.

Twenty-two people were killed and more than 80 injured when a suicide bomber attacked Saints Church as worshipers were leaving Mass. The attack was part of a pattern of violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt and tensions in Muslim-Christian relations in recent decades, according to analysts. 

Tveit expressed the sympathy and support of the WCC member churches to Pope Shenouda and assured him that the fellowship of churches was united in prayer for the Coptic Orthodox Church and for all the people of Egypt. On Jan. 9, many denominations in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere joined the Coptic Church in prayer for the victims of the bombing.

The WCC general secretary spoke of the cross as a symbol of solidarity shared by Christians around the world. “The cross serves as a reminder of the suffering borne in human life, and of Christ’s death on the cross, yet as a Christian emblem it also points toward resurrection, reconciliation and peace,” Tveit said.

In his message for Christmas, which the Coptic Orthodox celebrated on Jan. 7, Pope Shenouda focused on the love and peace of God. “It is encouraging to see how his message inspired both Christians and Muslims to stand together against violence and attempts at dividing the people,” Tveit said. Pope Shenouda stressed the importance of prayer to God, and the need for solidarity among all people.

Tveit was accompanied by WCC director of program the Rev. Hielke Wolters and program executive for Christian-Muslim dialogue, Rima Barsoum.

Based in Geneva, the WCC is a worldwide fellowship of 349 churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service.