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Pope To Egyptians: Let Papal Visit Be Sign Of Friendship, Peace

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Pope To Egyptians: Let Papal Visit Be Sign Of Friendship, Peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Praying that God would
protect Egypt from all evil, Pope Francis told the nation’s people that a world
torn apart by indiscriminate violence needs courageous builders of peace,
dialogue and justice.

“I hope that this visit will be an embrace
of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East; a
message of friendship and esteem to all inhabitants of Egypt and the region; a
message of fraternity and reconciliation to all children of Abraham,
particularly in the Islamic world,” the pope said in a video message
broadcast April 25, ahead of his April 28-29 trip to Cairo.

“I hope that it may also offer a valid
contribution to interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world and to
ecumenical dialogue with the venerated and beloved Coptic Orthodox
Church,” he said.

The pope thanked all those who invited him
to Egypt, those who were working to make the trip possible and those “who
make space for me in your hearts.”

He said he was “truly happy to come as
a friend, as a messenger of peace and as a pilgrim to the country that gave,
more than 2,000 years ago, refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family fleeing
from the threats of King Herod.”

“Our world, torn by blind violence,
which has also afflicted the heart of your dear land, needs peace, love and
mercy; it needs workers for peace, free and liberating people, courageous
people able to learn from the past to build a future without closing themselves
up in prejudices; it needs builders of bridges of peace, dialogue, brotherhood,
justice, and humanity,” he said.

Honored to visit the land visited by the
Holy Family, the pope asked everyone for their prayers as he assured every one
of his.

“Dear Egyptian brothers and sisters,
young and elderly, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor … I
embrace you warmly and ask God almighty to bless you and protect your country
from every evil.”

He said it was “with a joyful and
grateful heart” that he was heading to Egypt — the “cradle of
civilization, gift of the Nile, land of sun and hospitality, where patriarchs
and prophets lived” and where God — benevolent, merciful, and the one and
almighty — made his voice heard.

The day the video was released, April 25,
was also the feast day of St. Mark, who evangelized the Egyptian port city of
Alexandria, Egypt, before being martyred there.

Pope Francis dedicated his morning Mass to
“my brother Tawadros II, patriarch of Alexandria” of the Coptic
Orthodox church, asking that God abundantly “bless our two churches.”

In Egypt, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi
said Egypt would welcome the pope and “looks forward to this significant
visit to strengthen peace, tolerance and interfaith dialogue as well as to
reject the abhorrent acts of terrorism and extremism.”

Christians in Egypt, Syria and Iraq struggle with mounting pressures from extremists
challenging their religious identity and the right to practice their faith and
continue to exist in their ancestral homelands.

Pope Francis has urged an end to what he called a “genocide” against Christians in
the Middle East, but he also has said it was wrong to equate Islam with

Christians are among the oldest religious communities in the Middle East, but their numbers
are dwindling in the face of conflict and persecution. Egypt’s Christian
community makes up about 10 percent of the country’s 92 million people.

A high point in the pope’s schedule is an international peace conference at Cairo’s al-Azhar
University, the world’s highest authority on Sunni Islam, hosted by Sheik Ahmad
el-Tayeb, grand imam of the educational institution.

Pope Tawadros and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of the Eastern Orthodox
churches, are also expected to participate.

The pope will also meet separately with el-Sissi and other officials. Observers will be
watching whether the pope will take on thorny issues with his hosts, such as
the detention of thousands of Egyptians, without due process, simply held on
suspicion of opposing el-Sissi.

Others will watch to see if Pope Francis prods the Sunni Muslim religious establishment to
take a more forceful stand on religious extremism perpetrated in the name of

Many hope the al-Azhar meeting will sound a moral wake-up call to leaders worldwide to combat
religious intolerance while seeking greater cooperation to fight growing
threats by Islamic State and other extremist groups.

– – –

Contributing to this story was Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan.


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