Vatican City, Mar 18, 2017 / 05:11 am
In what will be his first international trip of the year, Pope Francis will be traveling to Cairo, Egypt, April 28-29, showing that interfaith dialogue is a priority.
He will visit the country in response to an invitation from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, as well as Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the bishops of the local Catholic Church, a March 18 Vatican communique announced.
While the full program for the Pope's the trip will be published shortly, he will almost certainly visit Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which has recently partnered with the Vatican to discuss combatting religious justification for violence in a warming of relations between the two.
The Pope’s trip will likely focus largely on inter-faith dialogue and Catholic-Muslim relations – especially in combating Christian persecution – continuing dialogue from a seminar Vatican officials attended in February.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, along with the council's secretary and the head of their Office for Islam, traveled to Cairo Feb. 24 to participate in the special seminar at Al-Azhar University.
They discussed the theme “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”
Persecution of Christians has long been an issue in Egypt, with a recent spike in attacks causing even more reason for alarm.
There have been 40 reported murders of Christians in Egypt in the last three months, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said in a statement Feb 28.