Midnight Mass this year will be celebrated for the first time at the Cathedral of the Nativity in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital.
The ceremony will be attended be President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Minister of Defence Sedki Sobhi, senior government officials and foreign ambassadors.
Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the See of St Mark, will officiate.
The new Cathedral of the Nativity is the fulfilment of President Al-Sisi’s promise made last year while attending Christmas Mass at the Cathedral of St Mark in Abbasiya.
The new cathedral features two large vaults, 40 metres wide, which cover the central and cross nave. At their intersection a dome stands on four central arches. The two ends of the cross nave and the western end of the central nave terminate in large semi-domes while the apse area is flanked on the outside by two 60-metre spires.
Pope Tawadros oversaw and approved the original design and later modifications.
Pope Tawadros described the completion of the new cathedral in the New Administrative Capital as an unprecedented historical event.
“The president made a promise when he came to offer season’s greetings in 2017 and he has fulfilled it. We will be praying in the new cathedral, which has been named the Nativity of Christ, this Christmas. Never before has a church of this beauty and size been built. I pray that 2018 brings all the best for Egypt,” the pope said.
He stressed that the difficulties Egypt has faced will not undermine the solidarity and unity of the Egyptian people and underscored the need for future generations to learn how to care for their nation.
According to the architect Faweil Saber, the Cathedral of the Nativity occupies 30 per cent of the 4.14 acre site allocated to the complex. He says the cathedral can accommodate 8,200 worshippers and that the complex has been designed around a large central square and includes the papal residence, a reception hall, meeting rooms and offices.
The Reverend Andrea Zaki, general director of the Coptic Evangelical Organisation, will preside over Midnight Mass on 5 January at the Evangelical Church in Heliopolis. The celebration will be attended by other religious officials.
Sources say collaboration between the churches and the interior ministry has intensified ahead of Christmas celebrations.
Across Egypt security measures are tightened around major Christian holy days.
*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly