Did Pope Francis Just Make Another Move for One World Religion?

Pope Francis embraces Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb
Pope Francis embraces Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Pope Francis arrived in Cairo on Friday hoping to mend ties with Muslim leaders, just as Egypt's ancient Christian community faces unprecedented pressure from Islamic State militants who have threatened to wipe it out.

In an address to the Egyptian people this week, Francis said he hoped his visit would help bring peace and encourage dialog and reconciliation with the Islamic world.

But it comes at a painful time for Egypt's Copts, the Middle East's largest Christian community, three weeks after Islamic State suicide bombers killed 45 people in twin church bombings.

Those attacks followed a cathedral bombing that killed 28 people in December and a spree of murders that has forced hundreds of Christians to flee North Sinai, where the group is most active.

"Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace," read posters plastered along the road leading from the airport to central Cairo, showing a smiling pope, his hand raised above the Christian cross and the Crescent moon of Islam.

Military Humvees patrolled the streets and soldiers guarded routes the pope will take. As on other foreign visits, Pope Francis will shun armored limousines during his 27-hour stay and use a normal car, saying this lets him be nearer the people.

Streets close to the Vatican embassy in Cairo and other sites have been cleared of cars and blocked off, and pedestrians were not allowed to linger.

"After all the pain we have experienced ... we are satisfied and confident that the state is taking strong security measures to prevent terrorism and protect churches," said Father Boulos Halim, spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox church to which the majority of Egypt's Christians belong.

"It's in the state's interests to protect its nationals, and the Copts are not an independent people, they are part and parcel of the nation itself."

Strained Relations

Francis will meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the world's most influential seat of Sunni Islamic theology and learning; and PopeTawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church who narrowly escaped a church bombing in Alexandria on Palm Sunday.

Francis is expected to give his key address to a conference on religious dialog at Al-Azhar, part of efforts to improve relations with the 1,000-year-old center after Egyptian Muslim leaders cut ties in 2011 over what they said were repeated insults against Islam by Pope Benedict.

Tayeb visited the Vatican last year after restoring relations. Widely considered among the most moderate clerics in Egypt, Tayeb has condemned Islamic State and its practice of declaring others as infidels as a pretext for waging jihad.

Francis denounces violence in God's name and papal aides say a moderate like Tayeb would be an important ally in condemning radical Islam.

But Tayeb is under fire over the slow pace of reform at Azhar, which critics in Egypt's parliament and media accuse of failing to combat the religious foundations of Islamist extremism. They say Azhar is an ossified institution whose clerics have resisted pressure from Sisi to modernize their religious discourse.

© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


To contact us or to submit an article, click here.


Get Charisma's best content delivered right to your inbox! Never miss a big news story again. Click here to subscribe to the Charisma News newsletter.

Five ways to deepen your relationship with God, increase your faith and save money!

  • Deepen Your Relationship with God with a FREE eCourse: Click Here to view all of our free e-Courses. Favorite topics include Fear, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Supernatural, and How to Hear God.
  • Super Discounts and Close-Out Specials: Click Here to view all our bundles and close-out specials and save up to 86%! Prayer, Holy Spirit, Anointing, the Supernatural and more.
  • God Wants to Anoint Women Now: Rise up and enter the anointing of Deborah, Anna, Esther, Ruth and Hannah. You were called to go higher. Click Here to learn more.
  • Change Your Atmosphere and Circumstances Through Prayer! John Eckhardt's prayer bundle gives you six powerful books to help you pray and change any situation. Click Here.
  • HUGE Bible Sale!: Click Here to save up to 50% off a great selection of Bibles. Plus, get a free gift with each order!

Subscription Special: Subscribe to Charisma for Only $24.97 and get a free gift. With your subscription, you'll receive Born For Significance by best-selling author Bill Johnson. View Offer

Attention Pastors and Leaders: Leadership training and development are crucial for success. Enroll in a FREE 1-hour leadership mini-course by Dr. Mark Rutland. View Details

Charisma News - Informing believers with news from a Spirit-filled perspective