Pope Francis Scheduled to Visit Egypt Next Month
By Mei Manuel, March 19, 2017 23:03 PM
On Saturday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will be visiting Egypt from April 28 to 29 at the invitation from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian Catholic bishops, the pope of the Coptic Church of Alexandria and the Al-Azhar.
According to the statement released, this visit will allow Pope Francis to help strengthen relations between Catholic and Muslims, a task he has been pushing for since he became pope in 2013.
Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Sectarian violence often erupts due to various issues related to the faiths like the construction of new churches and interfaith discussions.
One year ago, the Pope had been true to one of his goals and met the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb in the Vatican.
That meeting unfroze relations between the two parties after Al-Azhar, a 1,000-year-old mosque and university center, cut contacts with the Vatican in 2011 due to the "repeated insults to Islam" by Pope Benedict.
In his tenure as Pope, Benedict had denounced what he called "a strategy of violence that has Christians as a target" following a bomb attack outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 23 people.
A bombing at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49 in December.
Pope Francis has urged an end to what he called a "genocide" against Christians in the Middle East, but he has also said it is wrong to equate Islam with violence.
To become a model for Europe, the Pope has taken in Muslim refugees fleeing the war in Syria to the Vatican.
In Cairo, Egyptian President Sisi issued a statement on the pope's forthcoming visit.
"Egypt welcomes Pope Francis and looks forward to this significant visit to strengthen peace, tolerance and inter-faith dialogue as well as to reject the abhorrent acts of terrorism and extremism," Sisi said.
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