Egyptian Coptic Church holds first ever masses in Saudi Arabia to coincide with Christmas
The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church has held a series of masses for the first time ever in Saudi Arabia on the occasion of Coptic Christmas, the Copts United website reported on Monday.
Bishop Morcos (or Mark), the Metropolitan of Shubra al-Kheima, led masses in several Saudi cities including Riyadh and Jeddah, ending with a Divine Liturgy on Christmas Eve.
The masses took place with the approval and sponsorship of Saudi authorities, the Egypt Independent reported and were attended by Egyptian and Eritrean Christians.
In its latest edition, Al-Keraza, the official magazine of the Coptic Church in Egypt, thanked the Saudi ambassador to Cairo for facilitating the visit.
Coptic Orthodox Christians make up approximately 10% of Egypt’s population and are the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
Approximately 3 million Egyptians work in Saudi Arabia, many from the Coptic community.
The Gulf country, however, has strict rules on the practice of non-Islamic faiths and does not permit the construction of churches or other non-Islamic religious buildings, following a centuries old convention.
Under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia in recent years has seen social liberalisation, with many restrictions on dress, entertainment, and tourism relaxed.
But this has not been accompanied by political reform and thousands of dissidents and activists have been arrested and languish in jail.
Last October, 10 Egyptians were sentenced to up to 18 years in prison for trying to organise a commemoration of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.