The world turned on Sunday to watch the Egyptian and Palestinian presidents inaugurating the "largest church in the Middle East" along with a huge and spacious mosque in Egypt's New Administrative Capital.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has recently been keen to attend such touching occasions, inaugurated al-Fattah al-Alim Mosque and the Cathedral of Milad al-Masih (Nativity) which reportedly accommodates eight thousand people.
In a recorded message, Pope Francis of the Vatican congratulated Egypt on the opening of the cathedral, thanking President Sisi and the Egyptian government for accomplishing such historic work.
"I offer a special tribute to my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Twadrous II, and to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which knows how to give a true testimony of faith and love in times of crisis," Pope Francis said.
Before the celebration, which coincided with the eve of Coptic Christmas, US President Donald Trump said he is excited to see the inauguration of the Church of Nativity, praising his Egyptian counterpart for the step.
During his speech, President Sisi honored the Egyptian victims who were killed in terrorist and other hostile attacks. "I am not speaking about the army, the police, the civilians, or our Christian brothers, but all Egyptians."
Sisi welcomed Palestine's Abbas and the Arab delegates who participated in this historic moment.
"This moment is important in the history of Egypt, because two years ago in [Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox] Cathedral in [Cairo's} Abbassia, I told the Pope (Tawadros II) that next year we will celebrate in the new cathedral. We [already] celebrated the first phase and today we celebrate in full," Sisi stated.
The President, during his speech, said that he refuses to use the term "sectarian strife" when talking about Egypt, explaining that this is not the situation, and that all Egyptians are unified "We will not allow anyone to [negatively] impact us," Sisi stated.
"We need to be aware that the strife will not end, but [we have to adopt] vigilance and awareness," Sisi stated, adding that Egypt is building 14 cities and embedding mosques and churches inside them.
"Here I quote from the words of His Holiness Pope [Tawadros II] in 2013 after the attacks on churches; the Holy Father responded: a homeland without churches is better than churches without a homeland," Sisi stated.
For his part, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt's top Islamic institution Al-Azhar expressed his happiness at the opening of mosque and the church, adding that he considers it "an exceptional event that has never happened before in the history of Christianity and Islam."
"The Islamic state is a legal guarantor of the churches of the Christians and the synagogues of the Jews. The Sharia obligates the Muslims to protect mosques and churches equally," al-Tayeb said.
Standing Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of St. Mark Diocese thanked President Sisi for delivering on his promise that Sisi gave in January 2017, to build the mosque and the cathedral. "This was impossible because they are huge buildings and [needed to be] built in this short time," Pope Tawadros stated.
"We see and care about bread as food for the bodies, but souls also find their food in these spiritual and religious institutions," he added.
The Pope affirmed that these huge buildings were "established by the money and donations of Egyptians," adding that the President was the first to donate.
"As an Egyptian citizen I stand in this holy mosque (Al-Fatah al-Alim) and rejoice with all my beloved brothers at this happy occasion, which is recorded in the history of Egypt," the Pope stated.
By yesterday's opening, the New Administrative Capital is considered as having the largest mosque and church in Egypt, according to Chairman of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority Kamel al-Wazir. Wazir also explained that the cathedral covers a total of 63,000 square meters with a hosting capacity of 8,200 persons.
The New Administrative Capital is planned to include 21 residential districts, educational institutions, hospitals, 40,000 hotel rooms, a theme park, solar plants and a new international airport.