Pope's message of peace to people of Egypt
Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Egypt ahead of his Apostolic Journey to the country, saying the “world needs peace, love and mercy”.
Pope Francis began his video message with the traditional greeting in Arabic: “As-salamu alaykum! (Peace be with you!)”
He said he is “coming as a friend, as 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.”
The Pope thanked those who invited him, including the President, Patriarch Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, as well as all those making the arrangments.
He said he would like his visit to “be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East”.
He called his interreligious and ecumenical visit “a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.”
Speaking about recent “blind violence” in the country, Pope Francis said, “Our world needs peace, love and mercy. It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.”
He went on to say “Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.”
Finally, Pope Francis extended a warm embrace to the Egyptian people of all religions, age, and means.
“Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! (Thank you and may Egypt flourish!)”
The Pope will fly from Rome to Cairo on Friday for a two-day visit intended to build on inter-faith dialogue with Muslim leaders and to show solidarity with beleaguered Christian communities in the Middle East.
The Pope’s visit comes at a time of heightened anxiety for Christians, following two suicide bomb attacks on churches on Palm Sunday which killed 45 people. Those assaults were claimed by IS, which has vowed more attacks against Christians in Egypt. Despite this Pope Francis has chosen not to travel in a bullet-proof vehicle for his trip to Egypt.
During the two-day visit, the Pope will meet Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president, as well as Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of the 1,000-year-old Al Azhar mosque. He will celebrate Mass, meet the country’s bishops and pray for Christians who have been killed in terrorist attacks.