CAIRO (Reuters) – After more than three years of renovation, St. Mark’s in Cairo, the main cathedral of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, was inaugurated on Sunday.
The facelift was ordered to mark the golden jubilee of the cathedral, the official headquarters of the Coptic Church, the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. Hundreds of engineers and artists helped renovate the cathedral, built in 1968.
The church houses more than 100 religious icons, including some drawn to commemorate Copts killed in Islamist militant attacks over the past years. The renovations were overshadowed by a 2016 suicide bombing that killed 25 people in a chapel.
Dozens of priests and altar boys in red, white and gold robes surrounded Pope Tawadros II as he led the inauguration mass, under the gleam of stained glass windows.
“This is a day of joy and the prayers are those of spiritual happiness,” said the pope, according to state news agency MENA.
In the Dec. 11, 2016 attack, a bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up at a chapel used by women adjacent to the cathedral, killing 25 people and wounding 49.
No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Copts, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s nearly 100 million people, have long been targeted by Islamist militants who see them as heretics.
At least 120 Christians have been killed in attacks since 2014.