On Friday, April 28, the Holy Father will arrive in Cairo shortly after noon. This will be the second time he will meet with the President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who was received by the Pope on Monday, November 24, 2014, five months after his arrival in power. During this visit, the Pope expressed his wish that the path of interreligious dialogue should continue.
Encounter with the Great Imam of Al Azhar
Immediately afterwards, the Pontiff will meet with the Great Imam of the prestigious Sunni University of al Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, who was received in the Vatican on May 23, 2016 in a meeting that represented the official reopening between the Athenaeum and Holy See,. The two men will give a speech to the participants of the international conference on peace.
Relations between the Holy See and Al-Azhar approached the occasion of the joint seminar in Cairo in February 2017. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Vatican and the Dialogue Committee of Al-Azhar met to discuss about The “fight against fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”
Meet Tawadros II
The Pope will also meet with the Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, on Friday, April 28; During his visit to Cairo during this interview, a speech of the Holy Father is scheduled. In May 2016, Francis had written to him, and had reiterated his concern for Christians in the Middle East. In early December 2016, Francis had called the Coptic patriarch after the attack that caused the death of 25 people in a Cairo church.
Mass celebrated by the Holy Father on April 29
On Saturday, April 29 will be dedicated to the Catholic community (28% of the population), represented by 7 different rites, Latins and Copts, belonging to the Melkite, Syrian, Chaldean, Armenian and Maronite rites, 14 “dioceses” Dioceses, archdioceses or vicariates – the Assembly of the Catholic hierarchy of Egypt is presided over by the Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts, Ibrahim. The Pope will celebrate Mass at 10 o’clock.
One of the objectives of this trip is undoubtedly to fortify the small Catholic community that is sometimes perceived as “second class” citizens. Catholic Copts were about 210,000 in 2000; 200,000 Protestants and Coptic Orthodox about 6.5 million. It is estimated that Christians (11 denominations and their different rites together) now represent 11% of the country’s population with more than 90 million inhabitants.
This opportunity will be an opportunity to strengthen fraternal relations with the Orthodox; to pay tribute to the martyrs and to promote dialogue with the Sunni Islam of Cairo that condemns terrorism and religious fanaticism. In addition, strengthen the small catholic flock of different rites, especially Coptic, particularly close to the Pope, in the person of his private secretary of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid. The theme of Francis’ visit is peace: international peace and inner peace will be on the agenda of the conversations.