Continued from page 1

At the Saints Church in Alexandria, scene of Saturday’s attack, a double line of riot police stood at each end of the street. A stream of black-clad worshippers flowed in and bells rang as Mass began. Blood splatters remained on some of the walls inside.

Across the country, police were preventing vehicles from parking near churches. At the Cairo cathedral, security officers with walkie-talkies fanned out across the streets surrounding the cathedral, and metal detectors were set up at the entrances.

Several daily newspapers reported that Egypt’s Interior Ministry asked church officials to prevent crowds from gathering in front of churches after Mass. The request appeared aimed at avoiding the same sort of target hit in the Jan. 1 bombing in Alexandria — worshippers lingering outside of a church after a midnight service.

The measure also could be aimed at preventing further Christian protests. Riots in Alexandria and Cairo since the attack have been unusually fierce, with young Christians waving crosses and pictures of Jesus as they pelt riot police with stones and bottles.

There were signs of both sides in Egypt’s divide struggling to heal the rifts.

The front pew at a church in the Cairo district of Omraniya was filled with prominent Muslims from the neighborhood, their presence arranged beforehand with security to allow entry. Women in Islamic headscarves sat near Christian women in the head coverings they don in church. Many women sobbed heavily during the service. Omraniya was the scene of fierce Christian riots in November that left two dead, sparked when police stopped construction work at the church.

“This is the way our Egypt climbs new heights and become prosperous,” Father Hanna said in a sermon in the Muslims’ presence. “We thank our brethren who came to share with us the joy of our feast, and the pain we feel.”

In a gesture of solidarity, groups of Muslim activists turned out at some churches to act as human shields or join in the services, but heavy security limited entry to Christians and kept activists far back from the churches.

About two dozen were a street away from the Saints Church, including six women in headscarves, holding signs reading, “No to terrorism, yes to citizenship” and “Long live the cross and the crescent.”

“Egyptians are one people,” said one of them, Hayam Dorbek. “It has nothing to do with politics. We are all Egypt.”

Fadi Shehata, 15-year-old Christian entering the Saint’s Church service, said that since the attack, “some Muslims have felt bad and their attitude has improved.” Then he added, “But others …” and his voice trailed off.

Diana Maher, at the Giza church, acknowledged the attempts to heal the rifts, but she said her feelings toward Muslims had changed.

“At work, my Muslim colleagues and I say hello,” she said, “but the first day back after the attack, I avoided them.”

• AP correspondent Paul Schemm contributed to this report from Alexandria, Egypt.