Egyptian Coptic Christians on Tuesday began a 15-day fast to commemorate the Virgin Mary amid stepped-up security measures in and around the nation’s churches.
The two-week religious holiday comes some 10 days after a prominent Coptic Bishop was found dead at the Anba Makar Monastery in Egypt’s northern Beheira province.
The bishop’s death, which remains unexplained, has prompted the Coptic Orthodox Church to temporarily suspend the practice of “aetikaf” (self-imposed isolation practiced by monks).
Police are still investigating the churchman’s death, for which a possible criminal motive has not been ruled out.
Coptic Christians are estimated to account for roughly 15 percent of the country’s overall population of some 104 million.
Reporting by Viola Fahmy:Writing by Mahmoud Barakat