Egypt opens Middle East's biggest cathedral near Cairo

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image captionPope 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.

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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 captionThe newly built church can hold 8,000 people
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Pope Francis extended greetings to Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic church, who later led a midnight mass.

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image captionPope Tawadros II told worshippers they were witness to a great opening of the cathedral
image copyrightReuters
image captionAdorned 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.

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