When the devastating fire that erupted on 14 August in the church of Abu-Seifein in Imbaba, Giza, claimed 41 lives and and left 14 hospitalised, Pope Tawadros was isolating owing to COVID-19 symptoms.
On Friday 19 August, the Pope was finally able to meet the families who lost loved ones in the fire. The meeting took place at the papal headquarters at St Mark’s Cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo.
The Pope offered his condolences, saying: “I felt the pain with you; as did the priests and bishops, the whole Church, and all Egyptians.
“But we are comforted that the souls of those who passed away are alive in Heaven. Whenever we miss them, we can raise our eyes to Heaven, meaning that our eyes will be always turned towards Heaven.”
Pope Tawadros read part of the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelation, which describes the state in Heaven; he focused on the verse: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev 21: 4). It is a great consolation, he said, that the hands of God wipe away all tears and removes pain and sadness. “There is nothing but joy and peace in Heaven,” he said.
“The departed,” the Pope said, “our loved ones, passed away during sacred moments as they attended Mass; they were fasting, praying and prepared for their journey to Heaven, led by their priest Father Abdel-Massih Bekheit who passed away with them.”
Poe Tawadros reminisced on words he had learned when yet a monk at the monastery. “The elders in the monastery used to teach us this prayer: ‘Lord, give me the good end’.” He asked the attendees to repeat this prayer with him several times. He also asked them to repeat out loud the 4th verse in Psalm 23 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me”, and yet another verse “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”.
He asked them to teach these prayers and verses to their children, to take as a creed in the face of hardship.
The grieving families talked with the Pope, many expressing their pain and others the divine comfort and support they experienced through the ordeal. He listened intently and encouragingly, saying that no matter the intense bitterness at what happened, many blessings are sure to come.
The attendees asked the Pope for a wider and more adequate place for worship, while insisting on keeping the current small church which has become for them a place of cherished memory.
Anba Yuhanna, Bishop of North Giza , and His Anba Yulius, Bishop-General of Old Cairo and of Social Services, were present at the meeting.
20 August 2022