Cairo: Egypt’s Coptic Church has said that the Coptic Christmas, celebrated in January, will be downsized to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The mass service, held on the Christmas Eve, will be limited to priests of each church and 20 other persons in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt’s biggest cities.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II said that he would lead a Christmas Eve service with limited participation of bishops and monks in a monastery in the area of Wadi Al Natroun outside Cairo. The mass will be broadcast live on television for home worshippers.
He added that the measure is part of precautions against COVID-19 to avoid crowding on the occasion.
“We follow up statements issued by the Health Ministry and the world situation and take decisions that we consider appropriate,” the Coptic pontiff told MBC Masr television Saturday night.
Stepped up measures
“This type of celebrations [Christmas] is not free of hugs, kisses and handshakes. All this is not fit for the coronavirus crisis,” he added.
In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have stepped up measures against the pandemic, including a ban on New Year’s celebrations.
The country of over 100 million people is witnessing a spike in coronavirus infections and resultant deaths.
The Health Ministry announced Saturday night 1,189 new virus cases and 43 related deaths, raising the country’s total infections to 131,315 virus cases and 7352 related fatalities.
Copts make up the majority of Egypt’s Christians minority.
Unlike other Christian denominations, like Catholics and Protestants, who celebrate Christmas on December 25, Egyptian Copts mark the occasion on January 7.The difference in the celebration dates is the result of following different calendars.