Pope Francis renews call against extremism

CAIRO: Pope Francis made an appeal against extremism during a Mass conducted amid tight security in Cairo on Saturday, the second and final day of his historic visit to Egypt. The trip has been billed as a chance at promoting inter-faith dialogue and delivering a repudiation against religious violence. Nearly 25,000 people attended the open-air Mass, which was conducted in the Air Defence Stadium on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, state television reported. Tolerance has been a main theme of the addresses that the Catholic leader has delivered on different occasions in Egypt since his arrival on Friday.
His homily in Saturday’s Mass reinforced the message. “True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane,” Francis told the Catholic faithful during the service. “True faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own,” he added in Italian. “God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only extremism believers can have is that of charity.” The Mass was broadcast live on Egyptian state television, in a sign of an enormous official celebration of the papal trip.
Francis is the second Vatican leader to visit Egypt, after John Paul II visited in 2000. The motto of Francis’ journey is “Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace.”
Prior to Saturday’s Mass, the pontiff greeted the congregation from an open golf cart. Dozens of colourful balloons were floated in the air in a sign of jubilation.
The worshippers greeted the pope and waved the Egyptian and Vatican flags. Some of them voiced joy over Francis’ trip.
“Francis’ visit is a great present of God,” Gabriel Romanelli, a Catholic Egyptian man, said. “After so many attacks, it is a sign of trust,” he said.
In recent months, Egypt’s Christians have been the target of a spate of deadly attacks mostly claimed by the IS radical militia.
On Friday, Francis visited leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II, and mourned victims of a December suicide attack at an adjoining chapel.
Francis also addressed in Cairo an international peace conference hosted by Al Azhar, the world’s foremost centre of Islamic learning. In that address, he called for an end to arms proliferation as the first step towards ridding the world of violence. The pope also met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi. Egypt has the largest Christian community in the region, accounting for around 10 per cent of the country’s 92 million population. Most Egyptian Christians are Coptic. The number of Catholics is estimated at around 300,000. — DPA