Government says worship in hundreds of unregistered churches is allowed. Will neighbors agree?
Celebrating Christmas with Egyptian Christians for the fourth consecutive year, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presented the largest gift under the tree: A new cathedral.
Sisi was the first president in Egypt’s history to even attend a Christmas mass. During last year’s celebration, he promised to build Egypt’s largest church and largest mosque in a yet-to-be-developed new administrative capital.
Three weeks earlier, 27 people had been killed in a suicide bombing in a chapel adjacent the old cathedral and papal residence, St. Mark’s in Cairo.
“Evil, destruction, and killing will never defeat goodness, peace, and love,” Sisi said at this month’s cathedral inauguration. “We are one, and you are our families. No one can ever divide us.”
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II called the new church, named The Nativity of Christ, a “divine arrangement.” Fifty years earlier, St. Mark’s was built by President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Pope Kyrillos VI.
Egypt’s new administrative capital lies 28 miles east of Cairo, and is a flagship project of President Sisi, set to be completed in 2020.
Built on land donated by the state, the cathedral covers roughly 30 percent of a four-acre campus. Christmas mass filled the ground floor with 2,500 worshipers, bussed out by the Orthodox church. Total capacity will eventually reach 8,200 people, while its twin spires rise over 200 feet.
“I am so happy,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. “Built together with a mosque, it is a step that strengthens citizenship and equality.”
Zaki is confident that Protestants will also receive a land allotment in the new administrative capital, as three …
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