EGYPT – After more than two weeks after the bomb attacks that struck the Coptic Church on Palm Sunday, the Christian community in Egypt welcomed Pope Francis on Friday and Saturday April 28 and 29, 2017, under heavy security.
In his speech that he gave before the civil authorities, Pope Francis spoke of Egypt’s duty to towards achieving peace in a time where terror causes extreme agony and suffering. “Egypt has a singular task, namely, to strengthen and consolidate regional peace even as it is assaulted on its own soil by senseless acts of violence. Such acts of violence have caused unjust suffering to so many families – some of them are present among us – who mourn their sons and daughters”.
His Holiness also encouraged “the bold efforts being made to complete a number of national projects and the many initiatives of peace-making, both within the country and beyond its borders, aimed at that development in prosperity and peace which its people desire and deserve”. He concluded by reminding that the presence in Egypt is “not new or accidental, but ancient and an inseparable part of the history of Egypt”.
On Saturday and in his homily during Holy Mass before a crowd of 15,000 Catholic Copts, the Pontiff spoke of True faith through which we can “spread, defend and live out the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity” and “protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own”. “God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!” he added.
Recognition of shared baptism
During their meeting at the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Popes Francis and Twadros II signed a common declaration that urged to maintain the bonds of fraternity and friendship existing between the Catholic and Coptic Churches, and to promote the spiritual enrichment between the two and to engage in common prayer. Both Popes also sought “not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other”.
“Pope Francis tells the Church not to be afraid”
“For many years, we became accustomed to Pope Francis’ gestures and audacious choices through which he points out to the Church the way to follow in these turbulent times”. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa pointed out. “The journey to Egypt is one of those gestures”. “The world today is frightened by religious fundamentalism – especially the Islamic one – and, on the other hand, by the fate of Christians in the Middle East”, he added. “With his visit to the largest Christian community in the Arab countries and his meeting with the prestigious Islamic university of Al-Azhar, Pope Francis is telling the Church not to be afraid. Christians must always be more united, not only because circumstances require it, but because the Gospel commands us that. It tells us not to be afraid to meet and dialogue with members of the great religions. It is the only way to combat fundamentalisms and all forms of religious violence. It tells us that, despite what many think, this is also possible with Muslims. It is our duty”.