- Feb 17, 2020
One major aspect of Pope Francis’s trip to Egypt is the ecumenical encounter with the Coptic Orthodox Church, a member of the Oriental Orthodox communion, which broke with what are now the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as early as the fifth century, when they rejected the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Together, the six Churches in the communion represent some 84 million faithful and are among the oldest Christian bodies in the world.
An Indian priest living in Egypt says Pope Francis’s visit has special significance not only in promoting dialogue between Al Azhar and the Vatican, but also in strengthening the culture of peace and coexistence between followers of Christianity and Islam.
In a new interview, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said that despite the rise of violence and terrorist attacks in the country, Pope Francis never considered not visiting to bring his message of peace to Muslims and Christians in the country.
Although Pope Francis’s April 28-29 trip to Egypt will be extremely brief, barely more than 24 hours in the country, it’s among the riskiest outings of his papacy. On multiple fronts, from security and politics to Christian/Muslim relations and ecumenism, Francis faces hard choices on the trip that amount to striking the right balance between equally undesirable outcomes.
Pope Francis said he wants his visit to Egypt “to be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world” in a video message to the Egyptian people released on Tuesday ahead of his April 28-29 visit to the country.
At least eight security agents surrounded Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt as he entered St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo for Easter services, a reflection of the climate of fear gripping the country’s Christian minority in the wake of twin Palm Sunday bombings at Coptic churches that left at least 45 people dead. Tawadros had already announced that, because of the mourning over the attacks, celebratory aspects of Easter observances would be cancelled.