President Sisi meets with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in Rome on Nov 24 - 2014 - Press photo
CAIRO – 27 April 2017: Over the past several decades the relationship between Egypt and the Vatican has experienced numerous transformations. On May 10, 1973, the late Pope Shenouda III signed a historic Christological declaration alongside Pope Paul VI in the Vatican, after years of accumulated discord.
Then in the new millennium Pope John Paul II visited Egypt in an unprecedented pilgrimage. The Pope praised Egypt as a cradle of learning, religion and unity as he embarked on a journey to retrace epic passages from the Bible.
“Thank you Mr. President for making it possible for me to come here and to go where God revealed his name to Moses,” the Pope said, speaking to then-President Hosni Mubarak during a press conference. “May the highest God bless your land with peace and prosperity.”
Despite a lapse of inertia in the next decade, unity was again restored at the inauguration of Pope Francis in 2013. “Let us pray together for peace, dialogue and reconciliation for that dear nation,” the Pope said, speaking of Egypt during the 2013 uprising that saw recently-elected President Mohamed Morsi removed from power.
Egypt’s Pope Tawadros was one of the first to visit Francis in congratulations after he rose to the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church. “It is a great joy and truly a graced moment to be able to receive you all here, recalling the historic meeting forty years ago between our predecessors, in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after centuries of mutual distrust,’’ Pope Francis said at the time, addressing the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox delegation.
With a newly-revitalized bond, Pope Francis scheduled his first visit to Egypt this month. He is expected to arrive in Cairo Friday, April 28 and depart on Saturday. He has chosen not to travel in a bullet-proof vehicle while in Egypt despite the recent Palm Sunday terrorist attacks that left at least 45 dead.
The message of support the pope is sending to Egypt by his visit is clear to observers.
Pope Francis released a video message to Egyptians Tuesday. ”Our world needs peace, love and mercy,” he said.
The Pope began his video message to the people of Egypt with a traditional greeting in Arabic, “As-salamu alaykum,” which means “Peace be upon you.” He said he is coming “as a friend, a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod.”
“I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family,” he added.
Pope Francis described his visit as a gesture of friendship and respect for Egypt and the region and said he brings “a message for brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.”
He also thanked those who invited him, including President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Christian Church, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, as well as all those preparing for his arrival.