Pope Francis recalled his Apostolic Journey to Egypt last April saying he has fond memories of the visit – Photo compiled by Egypt Today/Mohamed Zain
CAIRO – 4 October 2017: Over thousands of years, Egypt had witnessed the succession of philosophies and religious beliefs; it is considered the cradle of Abrahamic religions as well as being a major part of what has been called the “cradle of civilization.”
Pope Francis on Wednesday organized a special greeting in Rome for a high-level Egyptian delegation led by Tourism Minister Yahya Rashid to promote a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt.
The pope’s blessing comes as a mandatory step in the process of initiating the Roman Catholic pilgrimage program to Egypt, which is set to launch next year.
The Flight into Egypt, as mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, is a biblical event that marks when an angel appeared to St. Joseph in a dream to advise him into fleeing to Egypt with Mary and infant Jesus; the event itself holds a unique iconic representation.
The Flight into Egypt as illustrated by Gentile da Fabriano in 1423 – CC via Wikimedia Commons/PetarM
“Egypt is a land where Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus, as well as many prophets lived; a land that has been blessed with the precious blood of martyrs spilt throughout the centuries,” Pope Francis said during his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope also recalled his Apostolic Journey to Egypt last April saying he has fond memories of the visit.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi received the Catholic pontiff at the presidential Ittihadya palace on April 28, 2017 as Pope Francis forged ahead with a two-day trip to Egypt – Press photo
Pope Francis visited Egypt on April as he met the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, and urged leaders of all religions to denounce violence and acts of terror committed under God’s name. During the visit, the Pope led a Holy Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in New Cairo.
Pope Francis leading a holy mass at the Air Defense Stadium in New Cairo on April 29, 2017 – Press photo
The visit in April marked the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Holy See.
Pope Francis described Egypt as a land of cohabitation and hospitality. He added that it is a land that encountered histories and civilization; he also passed on his blessing on Egyptians and prayed for Egypt’s protection from all sorts of evil and terrorism.
Tourism Minister Rashid is in Rome to meet with tourism officials in Rome with the aim to promote the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt as a significant pilgrimage destination. The visit, according to Rashid, falls within the framework of Pope Francis’ earlier visit to Egypt and the promotion of religious tourism.
The route of the pilgrimage passes 25 different places that have their significant meanings to the Holy Family during the escape from Herod the Great who sought to kill the newborn "King of the Jews" and led the infanticide known as the Massacre of the Innocents in hopes of killing the child.
A statement from the Tourism Ministry said eight main locations have been chosen to be the key stops of the pilgrimage route.
Sir Peter Paul Rubens' Le Massacre des Innocents, photographed during the exhibition "L'Europe de Rubens" (The Europe of Rubens) in the Louvre-Lens – Wikimedia Commons/Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
The pilgrimage starts in the city of Al-Arish, North Sinai, crosses to the Eastern Delta of the Nile and reaches Wadi Al-Natroun, where a number important Coptic monasteries lie, including St. Mary Church in Mostorod, Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church and the Garnos Monastery.
Tourism Minister Rashid affirmed in a televised interview with the CBC satellite channel that the pilgrimage holds both political and economic significance, he also pointed out that the pilgrimage’s route embraced Jesus for four years.
Rashid also pointed out that this pilgrimage would play an important role in promoting religious tourism in Egypt.
Pope Francis became the first Roman Catholic Pontiff to visit Egypt since Pope John Paul II in 2000.