Egypt's Sisi opens mega-mosque and Mideast's largest cathedral in New Capital

Egypt's Sisi opens mega-mosque and Mideast's largest cathedral in New Capital

Egypt's Sisi opens mega-mosque and Mideast's largest cathedral in New Capital

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.

"This is an important moment in our history", Sisi said in a speech as he opened the cathedral.

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

The new Egyptian capital, announced in March 2015, is intended partly to reduce crowding in Cairo but will also be home to government ministries and an airport.

An Egyptian police officer was killed on Saturday while attempting to defuse a bomb found near a church in an eastern Cairo suburb, state television reported, less than two days before Egypt's Christians celebrate the Coptic Christmas.

Hundreds of police and soldiers have also been killed in attacks, and last week three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died when a homemade bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo.

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The latest attack comes ahead of Christmas mass on Sunday when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is due to inaugurate the Cathedral of Nativity in Egypt's New Administrative Capital, 45 kilometres east of Cairo.

Coptic Christians make up an estimated 10 percent of Egypt's almost 100 million people and have long complained of discrimination under laws that favor Muslims.

While Egypt's Coptic Christians have for decades been targeted by Islamists, deadly attacks on Coptic churches have increased dramatically in recent months. Already, armed policemen guard churches, and security guards check the identity of visitors.

He said "extremists" had planted "an explosive device on the roof of Al-Haq mosque. near the Virgin Mary church". At least 102 Egyptian Christians have been killed in four separate attacks since December 2016.

The country has been under a state of emergency since April 2017.

His attendance on Sunday marks the cathedral's official inauguration. On November 24, 2017, a bomb went off outside of Al-Rawda mosque in the city of Al-Arish in the northern Sinai Peninsula, which claimed the lives of more than 300 people and injured 109 others.

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