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Egypt's pope in Christmas Mass urges anxious Copts to 'not be afraid'

  • eae09fedbe43de00250f6a706700b713.jpg

    Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, leads a midnight Mass on the eve of Orthodox Christmas at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, late Sunday Jan. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil) (The Associated Press)

  • 8785e5a0d857e000250f6a706700ba51.jpg

    Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, left, leads a midnight Mass on the eve of Orthodox Christmas at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, late Sunday Jan. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil) (The Associated Press)

  • 1b60d1d2d859e000250f6a70670081ca.jpg

    Egyptian Christians pray during a midnight Mass on the eve of Orthodox Christmas at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, late Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 . (AP Photo/Amr Nabil) (The Associated Press)

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    Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, is greeted by Egyptian Christians as he prepares to lead a midnight Mass on the eve of Egyptian Orthodox Christmas at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, late Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 . (AP Photo/Amr Nabil) (The Associated Press)

  • 776dc6c5be50de00250f6a706700a825.jpg

    Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, leads a midnight Mass on the eve of Egyptian Orthodox Christmas at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, late Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil) (The Associated Press)

Egypt's pope has urged his congregants to "not be afraid" in his Mass to mark Coptic Christmas, trying to reassure a community feeling anxious about the rise of Islamists to power here.

Pope Tawadros II led his first Christmas Midnight Mass this year. He was elected in November to replace longtime Pope Shenouda III, who died in March after 40 years as leader of the ancient church.

Coptic Christians, who represent about 10 percent of Egypt's 85 million people, are celebrating their first Christmas on Monday under an Islamist president. Christians have long complained of discrimination by the state and are feeling even more uneasy after the passage of a new constitution that opens the door for adoption of more strict Islamic law in Egypt.