Pope of peace in Egypt of peace

Pope of peace in Egypt of peace

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

Last week, I had the honor to participate in the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt in my capacity as representative of the Latin Patriarchate and of Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa. I also had the honor to participate in the International Peace Conference organized and hosted by Al-Azhar Al-Shareef.

I shook hands with His Holiness the Pope at Cairo international Airport and conveyed to him the greetings of the Latin Patriarchate in Jordan and Palestine. As for Al-Azhar conference on peace, it was a unique event since the Pontiff participated in it alongside the Grand Imam where both of them denounced terrorism in the name of religion at the final session, and stated that terrorism is far from the core values of religion. They also announced in the final session that violence in the name of religion is not permissible and that religion is free from accusations relevant to terrorism. This papal visit to fraternal Egypt served as a good omen and blessing for the future cooperation and collaboration designed “to purify religion “from all the tools used in the perpetration of violence, destruction, bloodshed and bombing of places of worship.

I also participated in the papal Mass presided over by His Holiness the Pope at the Egyptian Air Defense Stadium which the Egyptian press referred to as "the grand Mass". I, furthermore, participated in the special evening prayer celebrated inside the Orthodox Coptic Church. I think that the Joint Declaration signed by Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II will serve as a concrete step in the pilgrimage towards the full sacramental communion between Catholics and Orthodox Copts.

Upon returning to the homeland, we say: We in Jordan, and after having been joyful in welcoming His Holiness the Pope in May 2014, we have also participated in welcoming His Holiness the Pope in fraternal Egypt hoping that this visit will lead to forming an Arab Christian-Islamic force designed to push the Islamic-Christian dialogue to advanced stages, particularly with regards to cooperation in renouncing terrorism and extremism as well as in launching a joint educational process designed to protect the generations to come from falling into this trap.

Pope Francis has sown the seeds of goodness through his encouraging meetings and speeches, not only for the Church and its followers in Egypt, but for all the inhabitants of Egypt--in the presence of the patriarchs and bishops of the Arab homeland and representatives of different Churches--and through them to all shades of the Arab peoples. It is a message of love and peace to which no sane people can show indifference. The visit has undoubtedly brought consolation to the Egyptian brethren who have lost loved ones as a result of the growing violence and terrorism, especially in the wake of the subsequent bombing that targeted worshippers in churches. This spiritual and humanitarian solidarity will be effective in alleviating the sorrow and in looking forward to the future with hope.

On the sidelines of the papal visit, I visited the ambassador of our beloved country in Cairo in his office, Ali Al-Ayed, who participated in the opening ceremony of the International Peace Conference and was present during the opening addresses by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Sisi and His Holiness Pope Francis at the start of his visit to the Arab Republic of Egypt. Our ambassadors abroad do reflect the goodness and generosity of our people as well as their belonging to one Jordanian family.

Furthermore, there is nothing more impressive than the “Arabic” words uttered by the Argentine Pope. We also join him by saying that: "Religion belongs to God and the homeland belongs to all". He touched the hearts of millions when he began his address by borrowing the greeting in Arabic “Salam Aleikum” (Peace be with you).

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