CAIRO APRIL 28, 2017(CISA) – Pope Francis today began a two-day state visit to Egypt aimed at fostering joint Christian-Muslim efforts for peace.
The Pope touched down at Cairo International Airport at 14.20PM and was received by the Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Catholic bishops and other Christian clerics amid tight security.
The Prime Minister later accompanied him to the Ittihadya presidential palace where he met the President Fattah el-Sissi.
The Pope also paid a courtesy call to Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Imam of the government-run Al-Azhar mosque and the world’s foremost Sunni Islamic centre of learning.
Pope Francis is expected to address a conference on international peace conference. He will then meet other spiritual leaders of Egypt among them Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II and other leaders.
On April 29, Pope Francis will preside over Mass at the military-run Air Defence Stadium, on the outskirts of Cairo, before meeting with Egyptian Catholic church leaders.
Pope Francis becomes the second Vatican leader to visit Egypt, after John Paul II visited in 2000.
Despite major security concerns, Egyptian authorities acceded to Francis’ wish to travel in a normal car, not a bulletproof one, during his sojourn in Cairo.
The pontiff’s visit to Egypt comes amid increasing militant attacks against the Christian minority.
He also comes amid a state of emergency declared by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi following terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS on the Coptic churches of Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday that killed 44 believers and injured over 100.
In a video message send to Egypt on April 25 ahead of his visit the pope had said that he was going to Egypt as a messenger for peace.
“I am truly happy to be coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace and a pilgrim to this Country. I hope that my I would hope that my visit will make fruitful contribution to inter-religious dialogue with followers of Islam and to the ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church,” the Pope said.
Egypt has the largest Christian community in the region, accounting for around 10 percent of the country’s, 92 million population mostly Muslims.