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May 28, 6:26 AM EDT

Pope says Egyptian Copts killed by IS were 'martyrs'

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AP Photo/Amr Nabil

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VATICAN CITY (AP) -- For the second day in a row, Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity with Egypt's Coptic Christians following an attack on a bus carrying Coptic pilgrims to a remote desert monastery.

Francis led thousands of people in prayer Sunday for the victims, who Francis said were killed in "another act of ferocious violence" after having refused to renounce their Christian faith.

Speaking from his studio window over St. Peter's Square, Francis said: "May the Lord welcome these courageous witnesses, these martyrs, in his peace and convert the hearts of the violent ones."

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, which killed 29 people.

On Saturday during a visit to Genoa, Francis prayed for the victims and lamented that there were more martyrs today than in early Christian times.

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