Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attended Christmas mass on Saturday (January 6th) in the new administrative capital with top officials, including army officers and the interior and foreign ministers, Egypt’s Ahram Online reported.
The ceremony marked the partial opening of the Nativity of Christ Cathedral, the largest in the country, which al-Sisi commissioned in January 2017, following attacks that killed at least 27 Copts at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Cairo.
The president, who entered the cathedral with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, stressed that the partial opening of the cathedral is "a message of peace and love from Egypt, not only to Egypt and the region, but to the whole world”.
"Evil and destruction and killing will never defeat goodness, construction, peace, and love," he said, telling Egypt’s Copts that "we are one, and you are our families. No one can ever divide us”.
The Nativity of Christ Cathedral will, upon completion, be the largest church in the Middle East, with a capacity to accommodate 8,200 worshippers.
Egyptian forces have been on high alert to secure the country's Christmas celebrations, with the Ministry of Interior deploying 230,000 security personnel to secure 2,626 churches nationwide.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s parliament was to vote Monday on the extension of a nationwide state of emergency for a further three months.