04/28/2017, 09.18
EGYPT - VATICAN - ISLAM

Egypt is in festive mode (and on full alert) ready to welcome Pope Francis

by Loula Lahham

The President of the Republic al-Sisi personally supervising the security apparatus. Cairo wants to show itself as a tolerant, fraternal and welcoming country. Today, the intervention at al-Azhar peace conference. Over 35,000 people (accredited) for tomorrow's Mass at the aeronautics academy. More extremist threats against Christians in Minya.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Today, on Friday, April 28, an  Alitalia plane will land at Cairo International Airport, with his Holiness Pope Francis, and dozens of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, interpreters and assistants.

For some days, security preparations have been at the highest level and are directly under the personal supervision of the President of the Republic. The goal is to show the world an Egypt characterized by tolerance, fraternity, solidarity, terms that run counter to those of all who perpetuate conspiracies and want to erode the nation, drowning it in religious obscurantism.

This goal has united everyone: the presidency, the army, the interior ministry and the local authorities. The streets that will be crossed by the papal cavalcade have been washed, the trees watered, parking banned in the neighborhood where the apostolic nunciature is located, which will host the Pope during his stay in Egypt. Tension is visibly growing. No mistakes will be allowed. Official Egypt wants to prove that it is up to an event of this magnitude.

Yesterday morning, the international peace conference, organized by al-Azhar, the highest instance in the Sunni Islamic world, began, in the presence of, among others, the spiritual leaders of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches. A conference whose

The main theme of the conference will be the challenges and dangers that today pose a threat to world peace. And also, and above all, the "false interpretation of religious texts," as the great imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb has pointed out. Pope Frances speech is scheduled for this afternoon at the closing of the meeting.

Moreover, the spiritual leader of the Coptic orthodox expressed his joy in receiving the Holy Father for a very fraternal dialogue between "Catholics" and "Orthodox". And at the end of this first day, Pope Francis will pronounce a special ecumenical prayer for the memory of all the victims who have died from terrorism of a religious matrix in Egypt.

 

On Saturday morning, April 29, at 10 am local time solemn mass will be celebrated at the Cairo military aeronautics stadium in the eastern suburbs of the Egyptian capital, which can hold up to 35,000 people. Priests have been called to participate in the liturgy and for the distribution of communion to the faithful; They will wear a stole bearing the official logo of the papal visit, with the slogan in English and Arabic: "The Pope of Peace visits an Egypt of Peace".

The choirs of the six oriental Catholic rites (Coptic, Greek, Syro, Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean) have finished their preparations and the attendance of the faithful will only be admissible upon special invitations sent to some 237 Catholic churches as well as schools and religious institutes . There is a central altar dedicated to the Pope; the stadium stands are decorated with flags of the Vatican and Egypt. All or almost all preparations have been carried out by the Office of Religious Affairs and the Department of Egyptian Army Engineering. Several local and international television broadcasters will broadcast the event live.

The Pope will arrive half an hour before the scheduled start time for Mass and greet the crowd of the faithful who will have come from the four corners of the country from an open golf car. The Mass  will last about 90 minutes and will be preceded by several documentaries on the Vatican and the Pope.

In an exclusive statement issued at the last moment, Msgr. Emmanuel Ayad, bishop of Luxor and head of the Egyptian organizing committee, said: "Everything is fine and the preparations are almost over. I am proud to see the participation of all the official bodies of Egypt in the context of this great event. Everyone is doing their best. The President of the Republic and the army did much more than we could have ever imagined. Moreover, we are faced with a visit not only to the local Church, but  one that has taken on a greater magnitude that embraces the entire Egyptian nation. The Pope is expected with great joy and excitment by all, all of Egypt loves him and sees in him a great builder of peace. "

We should remember that while Egypt wants to portray a welcoming and tolerant image, yesterday the Christians in a village of the governorate of Minya (about 245 km south of Cairo) called Kom Al-loufi, could not pray in their church because of extremist threats.

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