No date set for Pope trip to Egypt: Vatican

AFP , Sunday 12 Mar 2017

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican June 17, 2015. (Photo:Reuters)

The Vatican is examining the possibility of Pope Francis visiting Egypt but no dates or schedule have been set, his spokesman said Saturday after Italian reports suggested the trip would happen in May.

"A trip by the Holy Father to Egypt is under study but neither dates nor a programme have been finalised," the spokesman, Greg Burke, said in a statement.

Italy's national broadcaster RAI had claimed that Francis would be in Cairo May 20-21 and that his programme would include a stop at the Al-Azhar university and mosque complex.

The pope hosted the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, at the Vatican last May, in a landmark meeting with one of Islam's top clerics.

The encounter was the culmination of a steady improvement in ties following a series of spats under Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI.

The current pope has made interfaith dialogue and reconciliation a leading theme of his pontificate and he has also overseen an improvement in relations with the Orthodox and Protestant wing of Christianity.

The Argentine pope has a long-standing invitation to visit Egypt, issued by President President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he met Francis at the Vatican in 2014.

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