Balancing act for pope in Egypt with Muslims and Christians

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Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks at a special prayer service honoring Christian martyrs in Rome last weekend to tell the story of a Muslim man who watched Islamist terrorists cut the throat of his Christian wife because she refused to discard her Crucifix.

“He, Muslim, had this cross of pain that he bore without rancor,” the pope said, his voice filled with emotion. “He sought refuge in the love of his wife, graced by martyrdom.”

That anecdote — balancing the murder of a Christian by Islamist militants with a Muslim’s love for his wife — serves as a preview of the pope’s message when he visits Egypt on Friday.

Francis is expected to highlight the plight of Christians amid recent violence in Egypt, while continuing his mission to reach out to Muslims. Even for a politically savvy pope, that is a delicate balancing act, on top of obvious security concerns in a country recently attacked by the Islamic State group (ISIS).

Egypt is still recovering from coordinated Palm Sunday bombings of two Christian churches that killed more than 40 people, nearly killed the head of the Coptic Church and prompted President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to declare a three-month state of emergency.

Francis will lend his support to the roughly 250,000 Roman Catholics in Egypt and insist on the protection of minority rights, including those of its nearly 10 million Coptic Christians, in a meeting Friday with el-Sissi, according to Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian-born Jesuit priest who has seen the pope’s prepared remarks.

He will also meet with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar mosque — Sunni Islam’s most influential training center of imams — and speak at a peace conference organized by the mosque. The pope is scheduled to finish the day by meeting his Coptic Christian counterpart, Pope Tawadros II, who barely escaped the bombings on Palm Sunday.

 “It’s an encounter of consolation, promotion and communion with the small Catholic community,” said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, who is expected to join Francis on the trip. “But it’s of great importance from an ecumenical point of view. And, of course, it is very important for dialogue with Islam, for the meeting with the sheikh of Al-Ahzar.”
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Pope Francis denounces barbarity during Egypt visit, preaches tolerance

popeBy Philip Pullella and Mahmoud Mourad

CAIRO (Reuters) – Pope Francis, starting a two-day visit to Egypt, urged Muslim leaders on Friday to unite in renouncing religious extremism at a time when Islamist militants are targeting ancient Christian communities across the Middle East.

Francis’s trip, aimed at improving Christian-Muslim ties, comes just three weeks after Islamic State suicide bombers killed at least 45 people in two Egyptian churches.

“Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God,” the pope told a peace conference at Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar.

Francis is meeting an array of religious and political leaders in his brief stay, telling reporters travelling on his plane that he was carrying a message of peace and unity.

Eschewing the armoured motorcades normally reserved for visiting heads of state, the 80-year-old pontiff instead clambered into a simple Fiat car on his arrival, and, with his window wound down, drove off into the heavily guarded capital.

“Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace,” read posters plastered along the largely deserted road leading from the airport.

He is the second pope to visit Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, following John Paul II, who came in 2000, a year before the September 11 attacks on the United States that convulsed Western relations with the Muslim world.

While Egypt has escaped the sort of violence that has engulfed Syria and Iraq, its Christian community has felt the full force of Islamist militants over the past six months, with bomb attacks in several churches.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WHTC

Catholic-Muslim Relations: Vatican And Al-Azhar Mosque In Cairo To Relaunch Dialogue

pope_gives_sheik_of_al-azhar_medallion_of_the_olive_of_peacrThe Vatican has announced it will send a representative to Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque on Sunday ahead of an official resumption of dialogue between the Catholic Church’s governing body and the most prestigious learning center in Sunni Islam.

Al-Azhar broke off talks with the Vatican five years ago after comments from then-Pope Benedict XVI. But relations have improved significantly under Pope Francis, who earlier this year held talks with the grand imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, considered the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

Now, it has been announced that the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, will set off to Cairo to meet a delegation with Al-Azhar. The meeting is intended to lay the groundwork for a further encounter in Rome in April 2017, reports the Catholic News Agency which describes it as a seismic step in Catholic-Muslim relations.

The relationship first became strained after a speech by the since-retired Benedict in 2006 when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor’s unfavorable views of Islam’s founder.

“The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war,” the Pope said. “He said, I quote, ‘Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'”

In 2011, Egypt recalled its Vatican envoy after Benedict called on world leaders to protect Copts – the largest Christian denomination in Egypt – following a church bombing in the country that killed 21 people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES 

Christians And Muslims Play Football To Combat Extremism

kashif-siddiqui-with-pope-francis-in-romeChristians and Muslims are working together for peace – through the medium of football, a British Muslim told a United Nations meeting in Istanbul.

British Pakistani professional footballer Kashif Siddiqi, co-founder of Football for Peace, told the United Nations Alliance of Civilisation how young footballers could be valuable in countering violent extremism among youth.

He was joined by Dutch footballer Wesley Sneijder, who plays for Turkish club Galatasaray and was named as one of the three best midfielders in the world by FIFA in 2010, as well as Turkish International player Oğuzhan Özyakup.

Siddiqi was in Istanbul after addressing a conference in Rome last week.

“Football is the one universal language that evaporates language, cultural and religious barriers the world over,” said Siddiqi. “It is fundamentally the greatest way to diffuse tensions and turn down the heat between competing factions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

 

Pope Leads Interfaith Peace Meeting in Assisi

65ce7f9a-a809-4605-aff9-a92d04f0f160_cx0_cy6_cw0_w987_r1_s_r1(Vatican Radio)  Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders applauded the “Spirit of Assisi” in interreligious meetings launched by Pope St. John Paul II thirty years ago in the Italian hill town.  At the conclusion of a four day peace summit of interfaith leaders in Assisi, representatives who addressed the gathering thanked Pope Francis for, in the words of the Muslim representative from Indonesia, “his endless commitment for peace.” Pope Francis arrived in Assisi Tuesday morning to attend the final day of the meeting, organized by the Sant Egidio lay community.

Din Syamsuddin, Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Indonesian Council of Ulama, expressed “high appreciation” to the lay Community of Sant’Egidio for “having kept alive the spirit of Assisi” by organizing the event each year.  Noting that Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country, Chairman Syamsuddin said the cooperation “has brought concrete fruits of peace such as our common work in interfaith dialogue, peace education among youth, peace process and conflict resolution in Mindanao, South Philippines.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RADIO VATICAN 

Christians, Muslims unite against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction

pope-francis-with-sheikh-ahmed-el-tayebAt a time when religion seems to be one of the causes of division in the world, it is always good to hear news about how people from different faiths are uniting for a common cause.

American Catholic bishops joined hands with Shia Muslim religious leaders as they recently released a joint statement condemning terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The joint declaration, entitled “Gathered In The Name of God,” highlighted how both religions value life and aspire for peace. It was signed by Catholic Church officials such as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“Christianity and Islam share a commitment to love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community,” the religious leaders said in the joint declaration, as quoted by The Catholic News Agency.

“Peaceful coexistence is built on equity and justice. We call upon all to work toward developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others,” they said.

The declaration also rejected “all acts of terrorism” and destructive weapons, encouraging countries around the world to shun these forms of warfare.

“Together we are working for a world without weapons of mass destruction. We call on all nations to reject acquiring such weapons and call on those who possess them to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons, including chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons,” the document stated.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Pope: Christian-Muslim dialogue essential for peace

20151127_pope_ss-slide-WPPU-jumboNAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Pope Francis told Christian and Muslim leaders in Kenya on Thursday that they have little choice but to engage in dialogue to guard against the “barbarous” Islamic extremist attacks that have struck Kenya, saying they need to be “prophets of peace.”

Francis met with a small group of Kenya’s faith leaders before celebrating his first public Mass on the continent, a joyful, rain-soaked celebration of an estimated 300,000 faithful, including Kenya’s president. The Argentine pope, who has never been to Africa before, was treated to ululating Swahili singers, swaying nuns, Maasai tribesmen and traditional dancers at the Mass on the grounds of the University of Nairobi.

On his first full day in Kenya, Francis received a raucous welcome from the crowd as he zoomed around in his open-sided popemobile, some 10,000 police providing security. Some people had been at the university since 3 a.m., braving heavy showers that turned the grounds into thick puddles of mud. Others waited in queues 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) deep to get close to the venue.

But the size of the crowd — estimated by both police and the Vatican — was far smaller than the 1.4 million that Kenyan authorities had expected after declaring Thursday a national holiday. Vatican officials had predicted a maximum of a half-million people, and the lower number was likely due in large part to the weather.

FULL ARTICLE FROM KRQE NEWS 13