Pope Francis preaches love, respect for others at Egypt mass

Ahram Online , Friday 28 Apr 2017

Ahram Online provided live updates as Pope Francis visits Egypt in the first papal trip to the country since late Pope John Paul II visited Cairo in 2000

Pope Francis leads a mass in Cairo, Egypt April 29, 2017. (Reuters)

15:50 Pope Francis has concluded prayers at the seminary and is heading to Cairo International Airport to board a 5pm plane back to Rome.

We will close our live updates here.

15:40 Pope Francis is now praying with the gathered clerics, asking God to purify and bless them.

15:30 The pope gives a short address. He thanks Egypt for its hospitality. Then he addresses the gathered Coptic Catholic clerics, and tells them that they must avoid despair and be a source of salt and light for society.

He tells them they must avoid complaining and becoming Pharaohs be lording it over others.

15:15 The pope has now taken to the stage with a group of seminarians and priests. They are praying together.

15:05 Pope Francis has arrived at the seminary, and he is being driven through the waiting crowds, standing on his golf cart. He's waving and smiling, and manages to clasp a few hands as the cart makes its way around the venue.

15:00 Crowds have started filling up the reception area at St. Leo's Patriarchal Seminary in Maadi where Pope Francis is expected shortly for a prayer gathering with various clerics.

Security is very tight around the area and audience members can only enter after presenting an invitation and being subject to inspection.

11:45 The mass is over and the pope is leaving the stadium. A heavily secured route will take him to Maadi, in southern Cairo, for lunch at a Catholic seminary.

11:40 Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak is giving a speech thanking Pope Francis for his visit, which he says can be summarised as “the pope of peace visiting the land of peace.”

Patriarch Ibrahim concluded his speech by saying that Pope Francis’ visit overwhelmed the hearts of Egyptian Catholics with joy and had filled their lives with blessings. He presented Pope Francis with a wooden shield.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis (L) walks towards the stage as he prepares to celebrate a mass on April 29, 2017. (AFP)

11:20 Pope Francis takes communion himself, and gives communion to the surrounding priests and cardinals.The worshippers are receiving communion from priests stationed near their seating areas.

11:15 The pope has consecrated the host, meaning that the congregants will soon receive holy communion.

10:50 The pope is blessing a newly-wed couple and a blind girl who were brought up to the tent.

Pope Francis
Screenshot of Pope Francis blessing an Egyptian bride and groom during a mass on April 29, 2017 (Photo: State TV website)

10:45 The pope concludes his homily by blessing the worshippers and Egypt, which sheltered the Holy Family and offered martyrs and saints throughout the centuries.

10:40 Pope Francis is talking about how the faithful must act: they must "defend the rights of others with the same zeal they defend their own". 

The only fanaticism of the true believer should be charity, he preaches.

True faith, added Pope Francis, makes us love more, be more merciful, honest and human. True faith refreshes the heart and makes it love everyone for free, without discrimination. True faith makes us see everyone not as an enemy but as a brother to be loved, helped and assisted.

10:30 The pope tells worshippers that when man reaches the depths of failure, abandons the ideas that he is the centre of the world, God reaches out and turns sorrow to joy. 

10:20 Pope Francis is giving his homily; he started by telling the crowd 'assalamu alaykum' (peace be upon you) before continuing in Italian.

He is discussing Jesus' appearance before his disciples after his resurrection, and talks about the importance of transcending our own ideas of God, whose omnipotence is not about power and authority but rather about love, forgiveness and life.

10:15 The first part of the service is underway, in a tent in the stadium. Bible passages are being read and hymns sung.

The crowd is estimated to be about 25,000-strong.

10:00 Pope Francis is now on stage to begin the mass ceremony.

09:55 The choir is now singing a song composed for Pope Francis’ visit, in both Arabic and Italian: “Pope of peace, in Egypt of peace, [the pope] shepherd of peace.”

09:50 The waiting crowd are donning specially printed white baseball caps to shield their heads from the sun.

According to sources in the event’s organising committee, 25,000 Egyptian and Vatican flags ‎were printed in preparation for the event, as well as 25,000 caps to protect attendees ‎from the sun.

Today’s a pretty typical Cairo April day – around 28 degrees at the moment and expected to top 30 by mid-afternoon.

09:45 The crowd in the stadium are waving small Vatican City and Egyptian flags, with a larger Egyptian flag being held up by number of people in the audience. Balloons are being released into the air as the pope tours the stadium.

09:45 For more about Egypt's Catholic community, take a look at our report: In Search of Egypt's Catholics.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis is surrounded by security as he rides an uncovered Popemobile before the start of a mass on April 29, 2017 at a stadium in Cairo. (AFP)

09:30 Pope Francis has arrived at the Air Defence Stadium in New Cairo to great applause from the waiting crowd. He is scheduled to give a mass here.

He is touring the stadium in a golfcart, waving to the audience.

09:30 Welcome to Ahram Online's live updates for the second and final day of Pope Francis' visit. He is scheduled to give a mass in a stadium just outside Cairo at 10am, then to attend lunch with local Catholics at the seminary in Maadi, before flying back to Rome at 5pm.




20:00 Pope Francis put flowers on the monument of victims of the church bombing, and lights candles in honour of their souls.

He then leaves the church to head to the the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in Zamalek where he will spend the night.

Pope Francis will head a mass at 10am tomorrow at the Air Defence Stadium on the outskirts of Cairo, which over 25,000 people are expected to attend.

We will close our live updates here for the day.

19:30 Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros are now attending an ecumenical prayer service in St Peter and St Paul’s Church near the cathedral. A number of other clerics are on stage with them.

19:15 Pope Francis then addressed the room, saying that the Vatican was praying alongside with the Coptic Orthodox Church on Palm Sunday when two churches in Egypt were bombed, and that the Vatican lived through the experienced with them.  

Following their joint signing of an agreement on the rules of baptism in the Catholic and Coptic churches -- which will mean that the Coptic Orthodox Church will now recognise Catholic baptisms --  Tawdros offered Francis a wooden Coptic-style cross

18:40 In a statement following his short closed meeting with Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros welcomed the pontiff to Egypt, "the land that pays every minute a tax of blood to keep its name as the land of peace."

Tawadros praised the Catholic pope’s efforts to promote cooperation and dialogue among the leading churches of the world.

He mentioned his visit to the Vatican four years ago, only a few months after Francis became pope.

Tawadros aso expressed appreciation for the role of Catholic schools and nuns in promoting education and providing charity in Egypt

He also mentioned the history of St Francis of Assisi – the saint whose name the pope chose to take when he became pontiff – who came to Egypt in the 13th century. Tawadros said he sought to get the permission of the Egyptian ruler at the time, Sultan Kamal, to pursue his preaching in the country.

Pope Tawdros said he is looking forward for a day when both the Coptic and the Catholic churches can celebrate Christmas together

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December while the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates it on 7 January.

“We have lived for 14 centuries in this country, which at times witnessed some disturbances, but these disturbances were as the fire that purifies silver from the impurities,” said the Coptic pope.

He added that the Coptic church has seen hard times in the past few months, but that their tragedy is the tragedy of a coherent nation and no one can affect the unity of the nation.

18:40 Pope Francis has arrived at the cathedral, where he was greeted at the door by Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Orthodox Church. 

Tawadros is speaking now. He is describing Francis’ visit as a new step on the road to love and peace for the nations.

18:15 The pope has now left the hotel and arrived at St Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya, where he will meet with Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

17:50 Pope Francis addressed the gathering of public figures. Again, Francis said he is happy to be in Egypt, the country of an old civilization, and called it ‘Oum Al-Dunya’ – “Mother of the World.”

In a wide-ranging speech he covered a number of topics.

Pope Francis hailed Egypt, which was a shelter for the Holy Family in the history, and that is now a shelter for millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, South Sudan, and is making efforts to integrate them into Egyptian society.

Pope Francis stressed the key role that Egypt plays in the Middle East, against the blind, inhuman violence that results from the arms trade, power-seeking, and religious extremism that uses the name of God in committing massacres.

Egypt has a duty to enforce peace, he said, despite the wounded on its own lands.

Pope Francis also mentioned the goals that Egypt tries to reach, the slogans of its revolution -- bread, freedom, and social justice, which he said could be reality with serious work. He praised the efforts towards peace, development that the Egyptian people deserve, the efforts that deserve all sacrifices, stressing that it requires respect for human rights, such as equality, freedom of expression and religion without discrimination.

Pope Francis also expressed his concern for the lives of the people who sacrifice for the safety of their nation, such as police and army members, Copts, and citizens who fell victims to terrorism.

In his statement, Pope Francis pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the violent attacks and expresses wishes for the recovery of those injured in the recent attacks.

He also mentioned the threats that Copts in North Sinai faced, leading them to flee, and thanked the authorities for providing help and support to those families.

Pope Francis stressed that no civilization could be built without condemning evil and extremist ideologies, and to reject every extreme explanation that aims to manipulate with the name of God.

He said that God respects every life, whether they are a believer or not.

Pope Francis directed his words to El-Sisi at one point, saying "God is the God of freedom, as you were saying Mr. President."

In Arabic the pope referred to the slogan that he said was associated with the July 1952 revolution, "religion is for God and the nation is for all" and invited Egypt to fulfill this slogan. He also referred to the Egyptian role in the region which was the birthplace of the three religions, to spread peace and fight terrorism, and its role in helping this region pass the long dark affliction, and get back to the light of brotherhood and peace.

He also saluted all Egyptians, and all types of Christians, Copts, Orthodox Armenians, Catholics, Protestants, and Greek Byzantines, who are part of this nation, who give an example of the possibility of living in mutual peace and respect.

He finally praised the 70 years of cooperation since diplomatic relations were established between Egypt and the Vatican.

17:30 El-Sisi in his address welcomes Francis as a “dear guest and a spiritual leader to people across the world from different religions.”

He praised the pontiff for his efforts to promote international peace, and said that the joint cooperation between Egypt and the Vatican that has been established at the diplomatic level for 70 years should help the cause of peace.

The president also said that Egypt stands at the forefront of international efforts to confront terror and would continue to do so while cleaving to its unity and its history as a land of diversity and tolerance.

The president also announced that 10 May would be a "day of friendship" in Egypt between the Catholic and Coptic churches.

El-Sisi reiterated that Egypt stands in the front lines of combating terrorism, calling on “peace-loving countries” to cooperate to eradicate the phenomenon, which would entail destroying the terrorists’ infrastructure as well as stopping the recruitment of new elements to terrorist groups.

17:20 Pope Francis has arrived at the Al-Massa Hotel, where he has been joined by President El-Sisi for a session with a group of dignitaries and ministers. El-Sisi is now addressing the room. 

17:00 The pope has finished speaking and has left the conference room with the sheikh of Al-Azhar.

Francis is now scheduled to go to Al-Massa Hotel in Nasr City for a brief rest and lunch. He will then go to St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abbasiya, for talks with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros.

The two prelates will pray together in St Peter and St Paul’s Church, a small church adjoining the cathedral complex that was targeted by a suicide bomber in December, an attack which killed 30 people.

16:35 Pope Francis begins his address with the formal Arabic greeting "assalamu alaykum".

In his address, he tells gathered religious dignataries that "we should reiterate our rejection of any violence that is committed in the name of God."

“Today we have an immense need to create peace not division.”

Francis denounced “demagogic populism” which he said was on the rise.

He said that "peace alone... is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name."

It is "essential", he added, to block "the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence".

16:30 In his statement, the grand imam of Al-Azhar blames international arms trafficking and reckless international political decisions for the “state of chaos” that prevails in so many countries. 

The grand imam says this is the moment for religions to take up the call of peace, equality and dignity of all humans - irrespective of faith or colour.

The head of Al-Azhar also says that Islam cannot be called the religion of terror based on the acts of a limited group of people who misconstrued the texts and fell prey to the wishes of evil groups, just as Christianity cannot be called the religion of terror based upon the Crusades nor Judaism based on the occupation of territories.

The grand imam expresses gratitude for the poe’s remarks in which he has rejected the association of Islam with terror.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis meets Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, left, Al-Azhar's grand imam, in Cairo Egypt, Friday, April 28, 2017. (AP)

16:20 Pope Francis and Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb have arrived at the closing session of the Al-Azhar peace conference, which began yesterday.

Both men are sitting on the stage; the sheikh is now giving an address, and begun by requesting the audience stand for a minute’s silence to commemorate the victims of terrorism in Egypt and globally, regardless of their religions.

The pope is expected to speak next.

15:35 Pope Francis left the presidential palace without speaking to the press, and has arrived at Al-Azhar institution headquarters in Cairo to meet with Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb. The two met previously when the Egyptian religious leader visited the Vatican in July 2016.

15:00 According to sources, El-Sisi and the pope will discuss a number of issues now, including developments in the Middle East, especially the rise of radicalism, relations between the Catholic church and the Islamic world, and some bilateral issues. A European diplomatic source tells Ahram Online that the murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni in Cairo will also be raised by Pope Francis, "upon the request of the Regeni family."

The doctoral student's body was found on 3 February last year by a roadside on the outskirts of Cairo, bearing signs of torture. Italian and Egyptian prosecutors have been investigating the murder.

Pope With  Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with Pope Francis in the capital Cairo on April 28, 2017. (AFP)

14:41 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi received Pope Francis at the entrance of the presidential headquarters in Heliopolis. The president had a brief exchange of cordial words with the visiting dignitary, amid the music of an official reception ceremony. The two are set to hold private discussions before speaking to the press.

14:12 A number of Coptic and Catholic church officials along with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail received Pope Francis at the airport. The pope will head first to Ittihadiya Presidential Palace to meet President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis disembarks after arriving at Cairo International airport, Egypt April 28, 2017. (Reuters)

14:03 Pope Francis has just landed at Cairo International Airport.

12:37 Security in Cairo has been ramped up since late Thursday and the early hours of Friday. Police are stationed every few hundred metres on roads leading to downtown, the airport and in the vicinity of Ittihadiya Presidential Palace.

10:35 Pope Francis has departed on his flight from Rome to Cairo. He is expected to arrive at 2pm local time.


Roman Catholic pontiff Francis is scheduled to meet with Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi upon his arrival at the presidential palace in Cairo, before heading to Al-Azhar headquarters to meet with Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb. The Pope, who departed from Fiumicino Airport in Rome this morning, will meet a number of the country's officials during his stay.

Pope Francis received an official invitation to visit Egypt from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi when they first met at the Vatican in 2014.

On Tuesday, the pope addressed the people of Egypt in a televised speech saying he was "happy to visit the cradle of civilisation, the gift of the Nile, the land of sun and hospitality, the land where Patriarchs and Prophets lived, and where God, Benevolent and Merciful, the Almighty and One God, made his voice heard."

Following his meeting with the grand imam on Friday, the two religious leaders will give a speech before the international peace conference, which kicked off in Cairo on Thursday.

The pope is also scheduled to visit the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo to meet with Pope Tawadros II.

The two leaders are also expected to speak publically there after their meeting. The two leaders met for the first time in 2013 at the Vatican, where they stressed strengthening the bonds of friendship and brotherhood between the two churches.

On Saturday, Francis will conclude his visit to the country by presiding over mass prayers at the Air Defence House in heliopolis. He is set to have lunch with Egypt's Coptic Catholic clerics, before his official farewell ceremony and departure for Rome. 

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