And finally he is here. Pope Francis, widely known as the ‘pope of peace,’ has arrived in Egypt on Friday on a two-day visit, starting from April 28.
Sending a message to the world that Egypt is safe, Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, addressed the Al-Azhar international peace conference, seeking better relations with the Muslim world.
Invited by Al-Azhar University, the principal religious institution of the Sunni world, Pope Francis met with Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Prof. Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb.
He is also to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world; and Pope Tawadros II, leader of Egypt’s Coptic Church. The Pope is also to celebrate a mass at the Protestant church for the first time ever in the world.
The visit of Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, to Al-Azhar is so important as Muslims around the world respect and consider Al-Azhar as one of their top institutions.
The premier and timely visit, being covered by more than 450 foreign correspondents from around the world, is a sign that Muslim leaders trust Pope Francis to restore the good relations as was the case in the time of Pope John Paul II.
The grand imam of Al-Azhar University, Prof. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, visited the pope in the Vatican in May 2016. It was the first time such a meeting took place at the Vatican. They got on well, and he invited Francis to Cairo to participate in the Al-Azhar sponsored peace conference.
Before starting his speech, Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Prof. Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb asked everybody to stand in silence for a minute of silence in condolence of the victims of terrorism worldwide.
Paying tribute to Pope Francis for visiting Egypt, Prof Al Tayyeb said that all world crises are due to disrespect of heavenly religions. “It’s high time for religions to start promoting and working for peace.” He appreciated the Pope’s statements that “Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Let’s work for peace together.”
Pope Francis started his speech with the greeting of Islam in Arabic. “It is an honour to be here in Egypt, and I thank my brother Grand Imam of Al Azhar for this invitation.”
Egypt is the land of peace and civilization, he added. “Egypt has always been the homeland of peace, science, construction, physics, and all walks of life. We have also to be open and frank to each other.”
Urging interfaith dialogue, he said it is a preliminary step to avoid misleading interpretation. “Violence leads to violence, and hatred brings about hatred, therefore, we should respect our human identity which is appreciated by God.”
Our future is based on this much-needed dialogue, he underlined, “The dialogue of the Vatican and Al Azhar is a good example for this hopeful dialogue. “We should bravely accept our differences, and approve the freedom of us all to be real builders of civilisation.”
Egypt is the land of fraternity, Pope Francis said. “The sun of science and religion has risen here in Egypt. We should work for goodness to everybody, and humanity cannot get peace without knowing Allah, and the role of religion should be clear.”