VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Accepting an invitation from
Egypt's president and top religious leaders, Pope Francis will visit Cairo
In response to an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah
El-Sisi, the Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and
Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, "Pope Francis will make
an apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt," the Vatican announced
While saying details of the trip would be published soon,
the announcement said the two-day trip would be focused on Cairo, the capital
It will be the pope's 18th trip abroad in his four years
as pope and the seventh time he visits a Muslim-majority nation. He will be the
second pope to visit Egypt after St. John Paul II went to Cairo and Mount Sinai
The invitation came amid increasingly closer relations
between the Vatican and al-Azhar, which is considered the most authoritative
theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam.
El-Tayeb visited the pope at the Vatican in May 2016 --
the first time the grand imam of al-Azhar was received by the pope in a private
meeting at the Vatican.
The pope later told reporters that in his 30-minute
discussion with the grand imam, it was clear that "they are looking for peace,
"I do not think it is right to identify Islam with
violence," the pope told reporters. "This is not right and it is not
Pope Francis also has upheld the importance of
strengthened cooperation between Catholics and Coptic Orthodox Christians. In
the face of so many challenges, he has said, "Copts and Catholics are
called to offer a common response founded upon the Gospel" and give a
shared witness to the sanctity of human life, family life and creation.
Given the increased
persecution against Christians, the pope has told Coptic Pope Tawadros, "Today more
than ever we are united by the ecumenism of blood, which further encourages us
on the path toward peace and reconciliation."