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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Somber celebration of the 50th anniversary of Egyptian cathedral

Somber celebration of the 50th anniversary of Egyptian cathedral

The 200 icons inside the church are a major attractions for tourists and history students. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 20 November 2018
  • The windows will tell stories of the martyrs of Alexandria, Tanta and other regions

CAIRO: Egypt celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Cathedral of St. Mark in Abbasia, Cairo, with a mass prayer headed by Pope Tawadros II.
However, the mood was somber because Egypt's Copts are still grieving over the attack on them in Upper Egypt on Nov. 2, in which seven people died and more than 20 others were injured.
"Fifty years ago was a historic and proud day in this cathedral and in Egypt as we celebrated the opening of this cathedral in the presence of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Pope Cyril VI (the 116th Pope in the history of the Church) and Emperor Haile Selassie," said the pope in a sermon. "The emperor of Ethiopia opened this cathedral in 1968 and named it St. Mark after the foundation stone was laid in 1965. It was the largest cathedral in the Middle East.
"Today, we share with the bishops, priests, ladies and children of Sunday schools, a day of joy and celebration.
"Four years ago, we started the architectural development and renovation of the cathedral. Hundreds of engineers, technicians, workers and a large number of companies participated and did a great job. It would have been great to have a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the cathedral and to honor the renovation workers, but the circumstances have not allowed it. However, I thank them."
The pope pointed out that in the church there are about 200 icons (a painting that tells a story), adding that "the icons in the spiritual sense are windows on the sky, each inviting us to heaven.
"The windows will tell stories of the martyrs of Alexandria, Tanta and other regions. There will be an icon to let the community know of his Holiness Pope Kyrolos VI and there will be many others. We will issue a detailed book on all icons."
The event was broadcast by many media outlets. Director Rida Shawqi said in an exclusive interview with Arab News that Egyptian television used all the facilities and capabilities to convey the celebration of the inauguration of the Cathedral of St. Mark, including 18 cameras which were inside the cathedral as well as drones and the national TV cameras.
According to scholar of Coptic studies Majid Kamel, the architects of the cathedral were engineers Awad Kamel, former dean of the faculty of fine arts at Cairo University, and Salim Kamel Fahmi. They were awarded the job after winning a drawing and design competition that was announced by the patriarchate, and chosen by the committee as the best project among 35 architectural offices. The project was completed in three years. He added that "construction works involved 700 technical workers, 300 builders and 1,000 construction workers. Construction costs amounted to about 350,000 Egyptian pounds ($19,490) — a lot in 1968. Owing to the high cost, the Egyptian Patriarchate launched a fundraising campaign to complete the works. President Abdel Nasser donated 150,000 Egyptian pounds from the national fund to help completion.
A small booklet distributed to attendees of the event explained that the cathedral building is 144 meters long, about 61 meters wide, and has one dome and two lamps, which is in the Egyptian architectural style. It also said that this was the headquarters of the Pope of Alexandria from its inception until now, following the old headquarters in the Church of Alexandria in Azbekiya (central Cairo).
The patriarchal church, adjacent to the cathedral, was attacked on Dec. 11, 2016, killing 29 people and wounding 31. In addition to severe damage to the Church of the Patriarchs, some of the buildings surrounding the cathedral were also damaged. Daesh claimed responsibility for the incident.

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