Ottawa Coptic events cut short over bombing
Coptic Christians in Ottawa are trimming their public Christmas celebration plans on the advice of police concerned about the safety of parishioners after the New Year's Day bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt.
A ceremony honouring the 21 people killed in the attack in Alexandria will still go ahead Wednesday evening at St. George and St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church on Cadboro Road in the city's east end.
But local police have advised the city's two Coptic churches to scale back the usual Christmas celebrations planned for Thursday. Copts, like the Russian Orthodox church, follow the Julian calendar, meaning they celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.
The liturgy will still be read Thursday, but there will be no celebrations afterward.
Rev. Shenouda Boutros leads the congregation at St. Mary Orthodox Coptic Church in Nepean, Ont., the other Coptic church in the area. He grew up attending services at the Alexandria church that was bombed Jan. 1 and later worked as a priest there.
"I served in that church, so I feel that really they are my family," said Boutros.
He said there were warnings about the bombing weeks before the attack.
Last week, an al-Qaeda-affiliated website published the names and personal information of more than 100 Canadian Copts it said had been vocal opponents of Islam.
Churchgoers at St. George and St. Anthony said they will be taking note of licence plates and new faces during Wednesday's ceremony.
Worries heightened when police arrested a man in the Glebe area after finding a homemade explosive in his vehicle Tuesday.
"Some people called me, concerned," Boutros said. "We are telling everyone just to be on alert, because there is concern."
Ottawa police help protect churches
Ottawa police's hate crimes unit is also helping plan security for the event.
"We've stepped up patrols and review of their security features," said Det. John Byers.
Some parishioners said the tragedy has been a challenge for the local Coptic community but said it's a good test of faith.
"I think this is an opportunity, actually, for us to shine in this world," said Fabi Tokuda.
Money usually spent on gifts will be donated to families affected by the bombing, Boutros said.
The ceremony at St. George and St. Anthony's will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- An earlier version of this story erroneously said Christmas celebrations were cancelled. In fact, the events were scaled back. The earlier story also reported erroneously that a ceremony to remember victims of the Alexandria bombing would be held at St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church. In fact, it will be held at St. George and St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church. The story also incorrectly stated Greek Orthodox celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.Jan 05, 2011 5:20 PM ET