Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi congratulated in a video conference call on Wednesday evening Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, on the occasion of Coptic Christmas.
President El-Sisi confirmed to Pope Tawadros II his keenness on personally participating in the Christmas Mass to congratulate the Coptic brothers and take part in their celebrations.
Orthodox Copts, who make up around 90 percent of all Christians in the country, celebrate Christmas on 7 January, according to the Gregorian calendar.
The occasion is a national holiday in the country.
In a statement, the spokesman for the Egyptian Presidency, Bassam Rady, said that the president affirmed to the Coptic Orthodox Pope that "the unity of the Egyptian people and their collective fabric has always been one of the most sacred and cherished features of this country throughout the ages."
This is something, El-Sisi says, that must be kept in mind, as "evil people" have always believed that harming Egypt starts with hitting at its heart, which is the unity of its people.
"The religious identity of any citizen of this country should not have a role in determining or distinguishing his rights and duties," El-Sisi said.
The president stressed during the call the state’s keennes to act as a role-model to the people by planting the concepts of difference and diversity in form, thought, and belief as a basic method for progress and development.
El-Sisi added that this diversity is a divine reality that must be respected and accepted in society, while taking into account what all religions call for in terms of coexistence on the basis of humanity and dissemination of the values of love and equality.
He also stressed to the Pope that many Western societies aspire to follow the example of the long history and ancient heritage of Egypt.
This history has been characterized by coexistence, and embodied the noblest human values that religions have established for peaceful coexistence and acceptance of others, the president stressed.
On his part, Rady said, Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, thanked El-Sisi for his keenness on continuing "his appreciated patriotic tradition of congratulating all Egyptians on this occasion."
Pope Tawadros II also stressed the value of the connotations and messages El-Sisi's personal tradition [of taking part in the celebration of the Coptic Christmas] establishes towards preserving the unity of Egyptians, the principle of citizenship, and diversity as a main societal element and one of the strengths of Egypt and its civilisation since the dawn of history, Rady said.
President El-Sisi has attended the Coptic Christmas mass at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo in previous years.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the church has cancelled or scaled back all religious gatherings and Christmas celebrations this year.