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A Message of Peace

Sun, May. 14, 2017
Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, gave his blessings to the attendees of holy mass last month. Speaking at the Air Defense Stadium in New Cairo on April 29, the Pope called for a holy communion. The mass was held on the second day of the pontiff’s visit to Cairo to spread a message of peace and conduct inter-faith dialogue with Al-Azhar.

“True faith is what makes us more loving, sincere and human. It is that which refreshes the hearts, and drives them to the love of all without distinction,” the Pope said, adding, “True faith is what makes us spread the culture of dialogue and brotherhood, and gives us the courage to forgive those who harm us.”

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Pope Francis also gave his blessings to two newlyweds who attended the mass and a number of elderly and sick Egyptians.

The mass witnessed the presence of 25,000 citizens from all over the country, as well as a number of public and political figures, ambassadors, politicians and diplomats. Pope Francis arrived in a convertible golf cart and toured the stadium in a glorified reception ceremony, before starting his holy sermon. Following the mass, the Pope was set to head to the Seminary College of Coptic Catholics in Maadi.

The visit, which came at an invitation from President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, marks the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Vatican.

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“The purpose of the Pope’s visit is to underline that we must not accept an interpretation of terrorism and terrorist attacks as a conflict between religions. The real conflict is between those who use violence and a religious terminology in order to provoke such an interpretation and those who want to promote coexistence and cooperation for a harmonious future for mankind,” Jan Hjärpe, professor emeritus at History of Religions and Religious Behavioural Science, Lund University, tells Egypt Today.

The Pope’s visit, for which high security measures were deployed, comes three weeks after bombings at two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday that killed at least 45 people.

The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the Palm Sunday attacks as well as a bombing which killed 28 people at Egypt’s main cathedral before Christmas 2016.

“The purpose is obviously to show that we are together against terrorism and violence that affects us all; to see us all as human beings, and, as for Egypt, to stress the role of Egypt and its ancient an new contributions to civilization as a common heritage regardless of religious affiliation. We belong together. That is a message to the World—in religious terms: to all the Children of Adam,” Hjärpe explains.

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The Pope had landed in Cairo early Friday, April 28, and was received at Cairo airport by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and top Christian clerics.

President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi then received the Catholic pontiff at the presidential Ittihadya palace, giving him an official welcome, accompanied with a military band playing the national anthems of the Vatican and Egypt.

The 80-year-old pontiff highlighted the sacrifice of members of the army and the police, the forced exodus of Christians from Sinai and the latest church bombings. Moreover, he stressed respect for human rights and religious freedoms.

Pope Francis and his delegation then headed to Al-Azhar Conference Center to participate in the closing session of Al-Azhar International Peace Conference, which kicked off April 27 with representatives of Islamic and Christian religious institutions and a large number of politicians and public figures.

“Let us say, once and for all, no, to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God,” the Pope said in Italian during the speech

After the peace conference at Al-Azhar, the Pope and Sisi arrived at Al-Masa Hotel, where the Pope focused on Egypt’s role in fighting terrorism in the region, highlighting its role, given some incidents from its biblical and modern history.

Following his speech at the hotel, local news outlets reported that Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, received Pope Francis at Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo’s Abbassiya district.

Francis commended the efforts of Tawadros II, whom he called a brother, in organizing meetings between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches.

Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II signed a joint cooperation protocol of reiterating the fraternity between their churches.

“The tragic experiences and the bloodshed by our faithful who were persecuted and killed for the sole reason of being Christian, remind us all the more that the ecumenism of martyrdom unites us and encourages us along the way to peace and reconciliation,” Pope Francis said during his speech at the church.

“The innocent blood of defenseless Christians was cruelly shed: their innocent blood unites us,” he added.

At the end of the first day of his visit, the Pope went to the Vatican embassy in Cairo, where he was received by around 300 young people whom he spoke to from his balcony.

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