Christians in Egypt Celebrate Christmas Amid Tight Security

coptic christians christmas
Coptic Orthodox Christian priests and deacons attend Christmas eve mass at a church in Saint Samaan the tanner Monastery in Cairo, Egypt January 6, 2018. |

The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, led midnight mass in the cathedral of Egypt's new administrative capital on Saturday, a service attended by President Abdel Fattah al Sisi.

The mass, on the eve of Coptic Christmas which is celebrated on Jan. 7, was the first to be held in the newly-built cathedral and took place amid tight security. Sisi was cheered by worshipers as he entered the building.

The new Egyptian capital, announced in March 2015, is intended partly to reduce crowding in Cairo.

Some 45 km (28 miles) east of Cairo, the city, which has not yet been given a name, will be home to government ministries, housing and an airport.

The celebrations were held over a week after attacks on a Coptic church and another Christian-owned shop that left more than 10 people dead.

Just before the new year, a masked gunman opened fire at the Coptic Orthodox Churchof Saint Menas in Cairo and a nearby shop owned by a Coptic Christian businessman. Ten citizens and one police officer were killed. 

The Dec. 29 attack was claimed by the Islamic State-affiliated Amaq News Agency. 

Egypt's large Christian minority has increasingly been targeted in recent years by Islamist militants including Islamic State, which is waging an insurgency in the north of the remote Sinai Peninsula.

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