Cairo, Egypt, is not only renowned for its historical significance but also for its diverse religious heritage. Amidst the bustling metropolis, a collection of historical Catholic churches stand as testaments to the enduring presence of Catholicism in this predominantly Muslim nation.
From the iconic Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt to the modernist Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral, the charming Annunciation Cathedral, the ornate Our Lady of Heliopolis Co-Cathedral, and the serene Basilica of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, each of these churches tells a unique story.
In this exploration of Cairo’s historical Catholic churches, we embark on a journey through time and faith, uncovering the rich histories, architectural wonders, and spiritual importance that these sacred sites hold. These churches not only serve as places of worship but also as living relics of Egypt’s multifaceted religious tapestry.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt, also known as the Coptic Catholic Cathedral of Cairo, stands proudly at 39 Mustafa Fahmi Street in Cairo.
This magnificent church serves as the primary place of worship for the Catholic Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, a community with roots dating back to 1741 when it was established as an apostolic vicariate by Pope Benedict XIV.
Its current status as a cathedral was granted in 1895, during the papacy of Pope Leo XIII, through the papal bull “Christi Domini.”
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt follows the Coptic or Alexandrian rite within the Catholic Church, offering a unique spiritual experience in the heart of Cairo. It is essential to distinguish this cathedral from others in the city that adhere to various Catholic rites, including the Roman rite and Eastern rites.
Furthermore, it should not be confused with the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which represents the Eastern Orthodox branch of Coptic Christianity. This cathedral stands as a testament to the rich religious diversity found within the vibrant city of Cairo.
Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima, also known as the Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in Cairo, stands as a significant religious sanctuary affiliated with the Catholic Church.
The foundation stone for this magnificent cathedral, known as the Tri-Mercy Cathedral, was ceremoniously laid on November 7, 1951, by Youssef VII Ghanima, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch. It was officially inaugurated in honor of the Virgin Saint Fatima on May 13, 1953.
The cathedral is renowned for its architectural design, featuring the main altar at its center, along with three additional side altars. On the right side, you can find the altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while on the other side, there are the altars of Saint Joseph the Virgin and Holy Baptism, distinguishing it as a basilica-style church.
Following the Chaldean Catholic tradition, which adheres to the Eastern Assyrian Rite, this cathedral maintains full communion with the Pope in Rome. It serves as the primary place of worship for the Diocese or Chaldean Eparchy of Cairo (Eparchia Cahirensis Chaldaeorum), an ecclesiastical position elevated to its current status in 1980 under the leadership of Pope John Paul II.
Despite a vacant seat since 1993, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima holds the distinguished title of a Catholic basilica by the decision of the Holy See, reflecting its enduring significance within the Catholic Church.
The Annunciation Cathedral
The Annunciation Cathedral, also known as the Armenian Catholic Cathedral of Cairo, is a significant religious edifice affiliated with the Catholic Church, specifically following the Armenian rite. This cathedral is nestled on Mohamed Sabri Street, Abou Alam, Abdine, in Cairo.
Inaugurated in 1926, this cathedral plays a pivotal role as the central hub for the Armenian Diocese of Iskanderiya, alternatively recognized as the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Alexandria (Eparchia Alexandrina Armenorum).
Established in 1885 by Pope Leo XIII, this diocese was created to address the spiritual needs of the Catholic Armenian community residing in the region.
Currently, the cathedral is under the pastoral care of Bishop Kricor-Okosdinos Coussa, who oversees its religious activities and spiritual guidance.
With its rich history and steadfast commitment to serving the Armenian Catholic community in Cairo, the Annunciation Cathedral stands as a prominent symbol of faith and devotion within the city.
Our Lady of Heliopolis Co-Cathedral
Our Lady of Heliopolis Co-Cathedral, also known as the Latin Cathedral of Our Lady of Heliopolis or the Basilica of the Holy Virgin, stands as a remarkable Roman Catholic church situated on Al-Ahram Square within the Heliopolis neighborhood of Cairo.
Designed by Alexandre Marcel, this cathedral showcases a captivating Byzantine Revival style, drawing inspiration from the renowned Hagia Sophia. Its construction was successfully completed in 1913.
This cathedral holds a rich history, as a crypt within its premises serves as the final resting place for its benefactor, Édouard Empain, and his family. Édouard Empain, a Belgian entrepreneur, played a pivotal role in the development of the Heliopolis district in 1906.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon the cathedral the title of Basilica minor, recognizing its spiritual importance.
Since 2008, Our Lady of Heliopolis Co-Cathedral has held the status of a co-cathedral, following the Roman Rite and falling under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of Alexandria of Egypt (Vicariatus Apostolicus Alexandrinus).
In 2014, during the aftermath of the Arab Spring, members of various Christian denominations gathered at this sacred site to pray for the country’s future, highlighting the cathedral’s significance as a place of solace and unity in tumultuous times.
The Basilica of St Therese of the Child Jesus
The Basilica of St. Therese of the Child Jesus stands as a Roman Catholic minor basilica located in Cairo, dedicated to the veneration of Thérèse of Lisieux, a revered French Catholic nun.
The church’s foundation stone was ceremoniously laid in 1931, and its construction was successfully completed in the following year, 1932. This splendid basilica falls under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of Alexandria of Egypt.
On July 8, 1972, the church was granted the prestigious status of a basilica, recognizing its spiritual significance and importance to the Catholic community in Cairo. Saint Therese is held in high esteem among both Egyptian Catholics and Copts, with numerous votive tablets adorning the walls of the crypt, bearing testimony to the countless intercessions and blessings granted through her.
Adjacent to the basilica is the Santa Theresa metro station on Line 2 of the Cairo metro system, named in honor of the saint. The Carmelites, who established themselves in Egypt in 1921, operate two hospitals in the region, one in Alexandria and another within the basilica complex in Cairo, offering medical services with the assistance of staff from France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.