President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt on Saturday made a symbolic appearance at an Orthodox Christmas mass in a new cathedral located in the country’s new administrative capital.
El-Sisi’s appearance -his third- is said to be symbolic because it represents an act of solidarity with the nation’s embattled Coptic Christians.
In attendance at the mass was Tawadros II, the Coptic pontiff, who led el-Sisi into the cathedral, as members of the congregation welcomed the president jubilantly.
The president, who first attended the religious ceremony on January 7, 2015, in Cairo and subsequently the following year, is the first Egyptian president to grace the occasion.
El-Sisi, a Muslim, delivered a message of love and unity, in recognition of the widespread religious divide that plagued the country.
“The inauguration of the cathedral is a message for the whole world. A message of peace and love…We present a model of peace and love,” he said.
“Evil, havoc, ruins and murder will never defeat good. Nobody can divide us. Destruction, ruin and killing will never be able to defeat goodness, construction, love and peace.
“Pay attention, you are our family. You are part of us. We are one and no one will ever drive a wedge between us.”
The nationwide service was held amid tight security with soldiers and police officers deployed outside churches across the country in anticipation of possible attacks by insurgents.