The Cabinet-affiliated committee responsible for licensing churches in Egypt rounded off 2020 by authorising 62 new registrations on 29 December.
This 18th batch of licences approved brings the number of churches and affiliated service buildings granted official recognition to 1,800 out of the original 3,730 that applied for registration following the repeal of Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings.
A total of 1,930 churches are still waiting to be granted licences under the Law for Building and Restoring Churches, introduced in September 2016. The Covid-19 crisis slowed progress in 2020 when 388 only licences were granted compared to 785 in 2019.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, who has previously urged the licensing committee to speed up its work to clear the backlog of unlicensed church buildings, ended the video conference meeting by wishing Egyptian Christians a happy Christmas.
A number of churches were already registered before the new law was brought in. It is illegal for Christians to worship in an unlicensed church building in Egypt, but until the committee began work in early 2017 it was extremely difficult to obtain a licence.