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Pope Francis to Visit Egypt in April to Underpin Peace | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Pope Francis talks during his Wednesday general audience, in Saint Peter’s Square, at the Vatican on March 15, 2017. (Reuters)

Cairo – Pope Francis will pay an official visit to Cairo for the first time in history in April, announced presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef. He added that the trip will be in response to an invitation extended by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who met the Pope when he visited the Vatican late 2014.

The spokesman said that the Pontiff’s visit will take place during the last week of April.

Observers see that the ties between the Vatican and Egypt “are witnessing a gradual development, especially after the important meeting between Sisi and the Pope in November (2014). It provided a firm ground to develop relations and the two sides agreed on a common goal: to fight terrorism and extremism.”

Youssef said that Francis will meet Sisi, as well as Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, Sheikh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb, and Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians. He added that Egypt hopes the visit will cement the spirit of tolerance and dialogue among followers of different faiths and further isolate extremism and terrorism.

Al-Azhar stated that the meeting with Pope Francis will tackle dialogue plans between the two parties and will discuss possible ways to “underpin forgiveness and love among all religions in a way that achieves peace in the world.”

In 2016, Tayeb visited the Vatican for the first time, carrying a message of peace for the whole world.

Reliable sources at al-Azhar said: “The visit of the Pope comes at a significant time. It highlights the importance of cementing dialogue among religious leaders and expanding agreement over mutual concepts.”

The sources added that the visit sends “a clear message that rejects extremism and radical thought, especially amidst the ongoing conflicts and criminal terrorism in our world.”