Roman Catholic Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt in the last week of April upon the invitation of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, a presidency statement said on Saturday.
Pope Francis’s itinerary will include visits to Al-Azhar – the world’s foremost authority on Sunni Islam – where he will meet with Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb.
Pope Francis will also visit the Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral to meet with Coptic Pope Tawadros II and will pay a visit to the Egyptian Catholic Church.
“Egypt welcomes its valued guest, and affirms that it is looking forward to this visit as a message of peace, tolerance and dialogue between all mankind from all religions,” the presidency’s statement said.
The statement also said that President El-Sisi, who met the pope in a 2014 visit to the Vatican, holds Pope Francis in high regard and admires his moral and spiritual stature as well as his courageous stances on some international issues.
Pope Francis’s visit will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relationships between Egypt and the Vatican.
Dialogue between Al-Azhar and the Vatican was frozen six years ago when Al-Azhar cut contacts over what it said were insults of Islam.
This came after a denunciation by then-Pope Benedict of a bomb attack outside a church in Alexandria in 2011 that killed 23 worshippers. Al-Azhar had accused the Vatican at the time of alleging that religious minorities faced discrimination by Muslims in the Middle East.
In May 2016, relations between the two religious bodies started to improve when Pope Francis met with the Al-Azhar Grand Imam El-Tayyeb.