Vatican: Papal trip to Egypt under study

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, left, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, exchanges gifts with Pope Francis during a private audience

Vatican: Papal trip to Egypt under study

The Vatican spokesman, American Greg Burke, confirmed on Saturday, March 11, that a papal trip to Egypt is under consideration, but insisted that no dates or itinerary have been finalized.

The statement came after Italy’s state-run RAI reported Francis would visit Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the leading center of learning of Sunni Islam, on May 20-21.

The Vatican and Al-Azhar recently restored relations that the Cairo institute severed in 2011 to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year’s bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people. Since then, Islamic attacks on Christians in the region have only increased, but the Vatican and Al-Azhar nevertheless sought to rekindle ties.

Last May, Al-Azhar’s grand imam, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, visited Francis.

St. John Paul II became the first modern Pope to visit Egypt in 2000, part of a special itinerary for the Jubilee Year of 2000 styled as following the footsteps of Moses. On that occasion, John Paul visited both Al-Azhar and also the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian community in the Middle East and roughly ten percent of Egypt’s population.

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 09:08
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