CAIRO, Egypt – Pope Francis has wrapped up the second and final day of his visit to Egypt on 28-29 April 2017. This marked his 18th apostolic journey out of Italy and 27th country visited. It also marked the second time that a Pope goes to the north African nation, after the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2000.
The Pope was invited to the country by President Abdel-Fattah al Sisi, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed al-Tayeb, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, and by the Catholic bishops.
As opposed to his first intense day which involved three discourses, including to authorities, an international peace conference at Al Azhar and to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, along with a common declaration and moments of prayer with the Coptic Pope, Francis’ second day was a bit lighter. It started out with a Mass, for the country’s Catholics who don’t even constitute one percent of the population, followed by lunch, and concluded with addressing clergy and religious.
In his homily at the Mass for Egyptian Catholics in the “Air Defense Stadium,” he recalled that today’s Gospel of the third Sunday of Easter speaks of the journey to Emmaus of the two disciples who set out from Jerusalem. The Jesuit Pope explained the account can be summed up in three words: death, resurrection and life.
He also reminded all those present what ‘true faith’ has the power to do and that nothing is impossible to God.
“God,” he also pointed out, “is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!”
After Mass, Pope Francis had lunch with Egyptian bishops and the Papal entourage. He was served by a young Italian chef who had a moment to greet him after the lunch.
During his prayer meeting with clergy, religious, and seminarians at 3:15 p.m., Francis warned them of seven temptations:
1. The temptation to let ourselves be led, rather than to lead.
2. The temptation to complain constantly.
3. The temptation to gossip and envy.
4. The temptation to compare ourselves to others.
5. The temptation to become like Pharaoh, that is to harden our hearts and close them off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters.
6 The temptation to individualism.
7. The temptation to keep walking without direction or destination:
Resisting these temptations, Francis insisted, is not easy, but it is possible if we are grafted on to Jesus.
“The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful!” he said, noting the quality of one’s consecration depends on the quality of one’s spiritual life. “You too can be salt and light, and thus an occasion of salvation for yourselves and for all others, believers and non-believers alike, and especially for those who are poor, those in need, the abandoned and discarded,” he said.
Preceded by a farewell ceremony, at 5 pm, the flight of Pope Francis and his entourage departed from Cairo International Airport, and the flight landed in Rome’s Ciampino Airport at about 8:30 pm. Pope Francis responded to journalists’ questions on his return flight to Rome.
During the two-day journey, the Pope was accompanied by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, Cardinals Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Unity, and Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt, Bishop Bruno Musaró. The interpreter of the Pope was his private secretary, official of the secretariat of state, Msgr Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a Catholic Coptic priest of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
Egypt has some 90 million inhabitants, a majority of whom, at least 85%, are Muslims. About 10% of the population are Orthodox Coptic Christians, and the Catholics, who are broken up between Coptic Catholics and different rites: Coptic, Latin, Armenian , Melkite, Maronite, Syro-Catholic, etc., make up less than 1% of the population.Their bishops are gathered in the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy presided over by the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak. – Zenit