Egypt’s newly elected Pope Tawadros II prayed for Egypt during Christmas mass on Sunday evening.
Hundreds of Copts gathered in Cairo's main cathedral in Abbasiya for midnight mass Sunday night on the eve of Orthodox Christmas.
The mass was led by Pope Tawadros II who was elected in November 2012 to replace longtime Pope Shenouda III, who died in March after 40 years at the helm of the church.
“We pray for this beloved country,” Pope Tawadros told the congregation. “We love this country’s land and Nile and are proud that we are part of it," Pope Tawadros II said.
Egypt's Coptic Christians, who make up 10-15 per cent of the 85-million nation, follow the Eastern Calendar, which puts Christmas on the 7th of January.
This year Christmas comes at a turbulent time for Copts after the election of an Islamist president and following the adoption of a constitution many argue endangers equal rights for citizens.
“We pray that God protects President Mohamed Morsi and all the officials and give them the wisdom to run the country. We pray that peace prevails in all places where there is conflict. We pray for peace for this beloved country,” Pope Tawadros II said.
Earlier on Sunday, President Morsi wished Tawadros and Egypt's Copts a happy new year in a phone call.
President Morsi did not attend the mass, but delegated presidential chief of staff Rifaa El-Tahtawi to extend greetings to the Coptic community instead.
Other public figures attended the mass included the moderate Islamist preacher Amr Khaled, founder of the Egypt Party; Amr Moussa, former presidential candidate and founder of the Conference Party; Amr Hamzawy, founder of the liberal Egypt Freedom Party; Rami Lakah, businessman and member of the Shura Council; and Michael Mounir, a Coptic activist and member of the El-Hayah Party.