Coptic Christians celebrated the Orthodox Easter festival on Saturday and Sunday with masses and sermons across Egypt and abroad, as the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church called for 'enlightening ideas' to counter the forces of darkness.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II led the official Easter mass at St Mark’s Cathedral on Saturday evening, in the presence of numerous Egyptian government officials and ambassadors from foreign nations.
While the focus of the mass was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the pope took the opportunity to present a political message to his followers, calling for those with enlightened and progressive attitudes to stand up against the evil in the world.
"Humanity needs owners of enlightening ideas, intellectuals, visionaries... and those with constructive knowledge to stand in the face of dark minds that hold back the progress of societies,” he said.
"What kind of human mind can conceive of wars, conflicts, acts of murder and terror that have prevailed in many places east and west?"
The pope was greeted at the mass by various government officials, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sending his own message of congratulations on the religious occasion.
Copts in Alexandria filed into St Mark's Coptic Cathedral in the central area of Ramala on Saturday evening for their own Easter mass, led by Bishop Pavle.
Pavle spoke about the Egyptian spring festival, Sham al-Naseem, with its message of hope and renewal. He said the festival — which takes place on Monday — is an ancient holiday stretching back four thousand years. He said that eating eggs on Sham al-Naseem was a very Egyptian custom, signifying new life.
The bishop had his own political message to convey, saying that after the many unreliable rulers of the past, Egypt was now in safe hands, protected by honest leaders.
The mass in Alexandria took place amid tight security, a team of church security staff monitoring entry into the church through scanner doors. Church attendants were allowed in upon producing either their national identity card or their crucifix.
Mohsan George, a member of the Coptic Church Committee working for the Cathedral reported that railings had been put up around the church building, and special measures were put in place to ensure the safety of the large numbers of people inside the building.
Several notable figures attended the mass, including the Governor of Alexandria, Mohamed Abdel Zahir, Security Director General Nadir Junaidy, officials from Al-Azhar and members of the House of Representatives. They offered their congratulations and joined in the celebrations.
Meanwhile, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered his festive greetings to Egyptian Christians living abroad.
"To all Egyptian Christian brothers and sisters abroad, allow me to extend to you my warmest seasonal greetings as you celebrate Easter this day," he said.
"I would like to take the opportunity to offer you my very best wishes for your future happiness and success, and for the progress and prosperity of our beloved nation."
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