Pope Francis to begin Egypt visit from tomorrow

Vatican City: Pope Francis heads to Egypt on Friday to bolster relations with Muslims and show solidarity with the largest Christian community in the Middle East following devastating attacks.
Security will be high for the Cairo visit after two bombings in Coptic churches earlier this month that killed 45 people, with the country currently observing a three-month state of emergency.
But the 80-year-old, who prefers face-to-face contact to pomp and circumstance, will shun armoured cars for a normal vehicle and electric pope mobile-style golf carts.
During the two-day trip, Francis will meet privately with the grand imam of Al Azhar mosque, Shaikh Ahmed al Tayeb, an Islamic philosophy professor who visited the Vatican last year, easing a decade of tensions. Relations were damaged under Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI over a 2006 speech in which he was seen as linking Islam to violence and 2011 comments condemning an attack on a Coptic church that Al Azhar denounced as meddling in Egypt’s affairs.
Al Azhar University, viewed as Islam’s paramount seat of learning, is organising an international peace conference on Friday, where Francis will speak as a simple participant, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said. The pope, who has made interfaith dialogue and reconciliation a leading theme of his pontificate, will be joined at the conference by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world and a close ally.
The Argentine will meet with the country’s President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and attend a reception with 1,000 guests. — Reuters