Coptic Christians celebrate gathered to celebrate Easter but this year’s celebrations have been more subdued out of respect for Pope Shenouda’s III passing.
Easter Sunday festivities were canceled and the Saturday night vigil from the Coptic cathedral was not projected in the streets outside the other churches of Cairo has previously been the case.
But vigil masses took place as usual, with several hours of sung prayers, candlelit processions and sacred readings.
The 88-year-old patriarch of the church died on March 17, leaving the Coptic community without its well-loved and active leader.
“Easter will not have the same spirit this year,” said Marina Alfred, 21, a Coptic Christian from Cairo. “A lot of people are sad after his death and they say we never knew we loved him this much until he died.
“He was so friendly and kind and was someone who knew the solution to everything,” she added.
But former People’s Assembly candidate John Talaat, 30, disagreed. “Easter is not a big deal after [the Pope’s] death. People used to go to the Pope to ask for help but in the last year of his life they took to the streets. He used to advise us to pray for solutions; he had no real influence.”
Easter comes in the run-up to the country’s post-revolution presidential elections. Egypt’s 10 million Copts have long felt marginalized within society and some fear the situation will not get any better, particularly with an Islamist majority in parliament, largely made up of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Copt Michael Saber, attending mass in Cairo, said, “[The Muslim Brotherhood] think they shouldn’t consult us because we are not believers and they frame us as second class citizens.”
He went on to say, “Nothing has changed since the revolution between Copts and Islamists.”
But there is also optimism among some Copts. Musician Bino Faris, 25, said he’s not worried.
“There are a lot of people who don’t like [the imposition of an Islamic way of life] who will make a new revolution,” he predicted. “All musicians will say no.”
This is a commonly held view among Coptic youth, not limited to musicians. Alfred said, “The fear is broken [since the revolution]. We won’t accept mistakes anymore.”
Talaat believes Copts need to continue to go out to the streets to protest. “They have to go out to know what’s going on. They have to know their rights. It’s not about the number [of Copts in Egypt]; it’s about proving they’re here.”