In a remarkable gesture of prayerful solidarity and consolation, Cardinal Dolan led a group of religious leaders on a Good Friday visit to an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christian congregation in Manhattan just five days after deadly terrorist bombings killed 45 and injured more than 100 at two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday.
The religious leaders came in the late afternoon April 14 to greet Bishop David, the spiritual head of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England, in front of the new Coptic church on East 62nd Street, the former Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church.
The religious leaders joining the cardinal were among the most prominent in New York City, and they gathered on one of the holiest and most solemn days of the Christian calendar.
Speaking to Bishop David and to a congregation of Coptic Christians gathered inside the church for Good Friday services, Cardinal Dolan said that he and the other religious leaders came to “help you bring some good out of a terrible evil that happened in your homeland.
“We love you, we stand with you,” the cardinal said. “We are particularly united in prayer and faith in our God.”
The cardinal received loud applause for remarking that the religious leaders were “the ones who are grateful for the honor of being with you in a time of great need.”
Joining Cardinal Dolan for the visit, which he organized, were Archbishop Demetrios, elder archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Archbishop Khahag Barsamian, metropolite of the Diocese of Armenian Church of America; Rev. A.R. Bernard, senior pastor and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis; Msgr. John Kozar, president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association; and Father Brian McWeeney, archdiocesan director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
The religious leaders first gathered outside near the church’s front steps before going inside.
Many of the religious leaders, speaking in church, referred to moments of terrorism and tragedy that have touched their own faithful.
Rabbi Potasnik, while acknowledging the tragic circumstances that brought the visit about, said there also was the potential for “a moment of triumph.”
“Those who hate us don’t want to see us sitting together,” he said.
In Bishop David’s remarks to his congregation inside the church, which is planned to serve as the first Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Manhattan, he said, “God always sends us consolation in the midst of suffering.”
The bishop also took the opportunity to express public thanks to Cardinal Dolan for agreeing to sell Our Lady of Peace Church to his diocese for use as its cathedral. The sale was announced in February.
“We are here in this place because of you,” the bishop said to sustained applause.
George Doss, a Coptic parishioner attending the service, said he was “very happy that our brothers in Christ, especially Cardinal Dolan and all the dignitaries, attended the service.”
Having a permanent place in which to worship after years of moving from one church site to another is a reality for which parishioners are very grateful.
“This is sort of a miracle to have a place of our own in Manhattan,” Doss said.
He said that Catholic parishioners of Our Lady of Peace, which merged with St. John the Evangelist parish in 2015, would be welcomed back “as brothers and sisters” by the Coptic parishioners.