Egypt's al-Sissi inaugurates 'biggest' cathedral in Middle East

Cairo - By Amr Mostafa and Ramadan Al-Fatash, - Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi Sunday inaugurated a Coptic cathedral in the country's new capital outside Cairo, in a sign of religious tolerance and a show of solidarity with the Christian minority.

The Nativity of the Christ Cathedral is the biggest church in the Middle East, according to the official Facebook page of the spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The inauguration was conducted on the eve of the Coptic Christmas.
Al-Sissi, a Muslim, ordered the construction of the new cathedral  two years ago after 27 Christians were killed in a 2016 bombing attack on the St Peter and St Paul's Church near St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, where the Christmas Mass used to be held.
Last year, the Coptic Christians celebrated their first ever Christmas Mass at the new cathedral, which was partially inaugurated.
Pope Francis of the Vatican Sunday praised the construction of the cathedral, which accommodates more than 8,000 worshippers.
"May the Prince of Peace give the gift of peace and prosperity to Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world," Pope Francis said in a video message released on the occasion.
"Dear brothers and sisters, you have martyrs who lend strength to your faith. Thank you for your example,” the pontiff added.
The inauguration came hours after an Egyptian police officer was killed while trying to defuse a bomb near a church in Cairo.
US President Donald Trump said he was “excited” over the opening.
“President El-Sisi is moving his country to a more inclusive future!” Trump tweeted.
On Saturday, al-Sissi also opened a mosque, said to be the largest in the Middle East, in the so-far unnamed new capital being constructed east of Cairo.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attended the inauguration of both sites.
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II, called the event “unprecedented in history.”
Copts, who make up the majority of Egypt's Christians, celebrate Christmas on January 7 in accordance with the Orthodox calendar.
Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, with the minority group accounting for around 10 per cent of the country's mostly Muslim population of 100 million.
Egypt's Christians have long complained of persecution and Islamist attacks.
Egypt has seen a spate of militant attacks targeting Christians and security forces since 2013 when the army then led by al-Sissi toppled Mohammed Morsi, the country’s democratically elected but divisive Islamist president.


Sunday, January 6th 2019
By Amr Mostafa and Ramadan Al-Fatash,

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