On Friday, April 28, Pope Francis makes an inter-religious and ecumenical journey to Cairo, Egypt, to deliver a speech, along with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, considered the premier center of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, to an international conference on peace.
The next day, he will celebrate Mass for the small Catholic community in Cairo and meet with bishops, clergy, religious and seminarians.
During the trip, the Holy Father will also address one of the oldest Christian communities, as well as meet again with Patriarch Bartholomew.
The Pope said that he is “coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod.” He added that he would like his visit to “be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East”.
In mid-March, the Vatican confirmed the pope would make the trip following an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar.
It will be the pope's 18th trip abroad in his four years as pope and the seventh time he visits a Muslim-majority nation. He will be the second pope to visit Egypt, after St. John Paul II went to Cairo and Mount Sinai in 2000.
The Catholic community in Egypt numbers about 272,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population, which is 90 percent Sunni Muslim.