Pope Francis arrived at the basilica with a prepared text, but as a Franciscan sister and a young man who survived a awful accident shared their stories, the pope took notes, eventually setting aside the text.
The initiative was born out of an invitation from Pope Francis in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, "to give a "concrete" experience of the grace of the Jubilee Year of Mercy", an April 10 communique from the Vatican stated.
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on Monday declared a three-month state of emergency after the blasts at St George's Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta and St Mark's Coptic cathedral in Alexandria, also in the north.
Previous popes held the service either at the Vatican or a Rome basilica but Francis changed the tradition to stress the importance of going to the poor, the sick and the imprisoned. The man, a suicide bomber, had tried to storm the entrance to the church before being stopped by police, three of whom died in the blast.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks occurring a week before Coptic Easter.
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"I pray for the dead and the victims. May the Lord convert the hearts of people who sow terror, violence and death and even the hearts of those who produce and traffic in weapons". After the blessing, he led a short procession up to the main altar, where he continued with the celebration of the rest of the Mass.
Immediately afterwards the pope and the grand imam, now Ahmed el-Tayeb, will give speeches to participants in an worldwide peace conference.
"Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved", the Pope said.
On Saturday, April 29, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the morning, followed by a meeting with Egypt's bishops over lunch. The first such visit was by John Paul II in February 2000.
It may be recalled that yesterday's bombings were among the deadliest that were targeted at the minority Christian community in Egypt.