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Apr 28-29, 2017: Pope Francis to vist Egypt to improve Catholic-Muslim ties

EGYPT - Pope Francis makes a two-day visit to Egypt, giving the pontiff another opportunity to promote better relations between Catholics and Muslims.

Francis accepted an invitation to Cairo issued jointly by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Catholic bishops, the pope of the Coptic church of Alexandria and the Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, the Vatican said.

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew II of Constantinople will join Pope Francis during his visit.

Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Sectarian violence sometimes erupts over disputes on issues related to church building, religious conversions and interfaith relationships.

Francis has put great emphasis on improving inter-faith relations since his election in 2013, and a year ago he met the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, at the Vatican.

That meeting eased relations after Al-Azhar, a 1,000-year-old mosque and university centre, cut contacts with the Vatican in 2011 over what it said were repeated insults towards Islam from Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict.

Benedict had denounced what he called “a strategy of violence that has Christians as a target” following a bomb attack outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 23 people.

A bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people in Dec 2016.

Pope Francis has urged an end to what he calls a “genocide” against Christians in the Middle East, but he has also stressed that it is wrong to equate Islam with violence.

#22103 Published: 03/21/2017

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