Pope Francis considering trip to Egypt

Pope Francis considering trip to Egypt
Papal spokesperson confirms that a visit to Egypt may be on the cards, amid continued speculation that a trip may be scheduled for May.
2 min read
11 March, 2017
Pope Francis was invited to Egypt by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2014 [AFP]
The Vatican is exploring the possibility of a papal visit to Egypt, a spokesman for the pontiff said on Saturday.

A date is yet to be specified, however reports in the Italian press 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," Greg Burke, spokesman for Pope Francis, said in a statement.

The visit will fulfil a long-standing invitation that was made by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he visited the Pope in 2014.

Italian national broadcaster RAI claimed that the head of the Catholic Church would be in Cairo May 20-21 on a trip that will include a visit to the al-Azhar university and mosque.

The head of al-Azhar, reputedly Islam's oldest seat of learning, was hosted by the Vatican in May last year.

The landmark meeting between Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayed and Pope Francis was hailed as the culmination of improving relations with the Muslim world since the rocky and short lived tenure of Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis has made it a hallmark of his leadership to engage in interfaith dialogue and improve relations with the Orthodox and Protestant branches of Christianity.

Less than one percent of Egyptians, roughly 200,000 of the country's population are adherents of the Catholic faith.

The majority of Egypt's Christians are followers of the Coptic Church that is based in Cairo.

Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, say they are sidelined in both the education system and state institutions.

Amnesty International earlier in March accused the Egyptian government of failing to protect hundreds of Coptic Christians who fled their homes in northern Sinai after a series of attacks by Islamic State militants.