Egypt: Coptic Christmas, Sissi cheered at Cathedral mass

Armed forces chief applauded as possible presidential candidate

07 January, 14:47

    Christian Coptics Christmas mass Christian Coptics Christmas mass

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - Armed forces chief Abdel Fattah el Sissi scored a major victory at the Christmass Coptic mass in Cairo's Abbassiya cathedral on Tuesday: though absent for security reasons, the defence minister leading the country's new phase was cheered for a long time after Pope Tawadros II mentioned his name among those who had sent messages of well wishes to Christians celebrating the festivity, Al Ahram online reported Tuesday in a long article.

    The paper noted that Christians were among the staunchest supporters of the army chief who on July 3 ousted former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Many Egyptians would like him to run for president.

    President Adli Mansour, who visited the cathedral on Monday, was also cheered when the patriarch mentioned his name.

    The visit was a rare event, the government newspaper reported, since President Gamal Abdel-Nasser took part in its inauguration in the 1960s.

    The former secretary general of the Arab League Amr Mussa - at the helm of the committee which drafted the new Constitution to be voted in a referendum on January 14-15 - was also saluted as well as the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed el Tayyeb: "if all Muslims were like this great spiritual man, our lives as Copts in this country would be freed of so much of the discrimination that we have been facing for years", a retired lawyer told the paper. The lawyer, only identified as Maher in the article, said he voted for Moussa in the 2012 presidential election but 'now is the time for el Sissi'. 'We need a strong army man because we are at war against terrorism', he said. An opinion in line with the great popularity enjoyed by the defence minister among Christians although they suffered during military rule in October 2011 the so-called Maspero massacre when almost 30 demonstrators were killed in front of the state-owned broadcaster as they were protesting against attacks on churches.

    Coptic authorities have publicly supported, together with el Tayyeb, el Sisi's choice to oust Morsi following a wave of protests on June 30 against the Islamic Brotherhood's president.

    And in the following weeks, Coptic Christians paid a high price for their support with dozens of churches and properties across the country attacked by Islamists.

    Security was tight around the Cathedral on Coptic Christmas Day with security also boosted at other churches over fears of terror attacks. (ANSAmed)

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