Cairo- Pope Francis, starting a two-day visit to Egypt on Friday, urged all religious leaders to unite in renouncing religious extremism and to counter effectively the barbarity of those who foment hatred and violence.
Speaking during the International Peace Conference at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the Pope said: “Let us say once more a firm and clear “No!” to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God.”
Pope Francis said his trip to Egypt was about “unity and brotherhood.”
“In order to prevent conflicts and build peace, it is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence,” Francis said.
After his landing in Cairo, Pope Francis first met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, where he was received with honors in a solemn ceremony.
“Our welcome of the Vatican’s Pope on Egyptian lands is an announcement to the world about our strong national unity,” Sisi said after meeting with the Pope.
The Pope also met on Friday with Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb at Al-Azhar institution headquarters in Cairo.
They later arrived together at the closing session of the Al-Azhar peace conference in Cairo.
The sheikh began his statement by requesting the audience to hold a minute of silence to commemorate the victims of terrorism in Egypt and the world, regardless of their religions.
“The arms trade and production is the principal cause of our problems today,” al-Tayeb said.
Later on Friday, Francis visited the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abbasiya, where he met with head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, who said: “The visit of Pope Francis to Egypt is a new step for love and cooperation between nations.”
Francis and Tawadros then presided over a prayer service in St. Peter’s church in central Cairo where 30 people were killed in a suicide bombing last December.