Egypt opens Middle East's biggest cathedral near Cairo

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Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (L) listens as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) speaks before mass at the newly inaugurated Cathedral of Nativity in the New Administrative Capital, EgyptImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Pope Tawadros II (L) led a midnight mass attended by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R)

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has inaugurated Egypt's largest cathedral in the new administrative capital east of Cairo, a day after a deadly bomb blast near a Coptic church.

The newly built Cathedral of Nativity had its first Mass under heavy security on Sunday, the eve of Coptic Christmas.

On Saturday, a policeman died trying to defuse an explosive device hidden on a roof in Nasr City outside Cairo.

Copts make up about 10% of Egypt's Muslim-majority population.

Many say the state discriminates against them and does not offer them enough protection.

Image source, EPA

Mr Sisi, who declares himself a defender of Christians against extremists, told worshippers the simultaneous opening of the cathedral and the major Al-Fattah Al-Aleem mosque carried a message of unity.

"We are one and we will remain one," Mr Sisi said as he opened the cathedral, referring to Egyptian Christians and Muslims.

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Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The newly built church can hold 8,000 people
Image source, AFP/Getty

Pope Francis extended greetings to Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic church, who later led a midnight mass.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Pope Tawadros II told worshippers they were witness to a great opening of the cathedral
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Adorned with Coptic icons, the new Coptic cathedral is some 45km (28 miles) east of Cairo

The newly built Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque will be able to accommodate almost twice that of the cathedral, both of which are located in the major development that is the new administrative capital.

Image source, EPA
Image source, EPA

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