Pope's Egypt visit offers chance to improve Catholic-Muslim ties

By REUTERS
March 18, 2017 16:16
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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis will make a trip to Egypt next month, the Vatican said on Saturday, giving the pontiff another opportunity to promote better relations between Catholics and Muslims.

Francis has accepted an invitation to Cairo on April 28-29 from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Catholic bishops, the pope of the Coptic church of Alexandria and the country's highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, the Vatican said in a statement.

Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. Sectarian violence sometimes erupts over disputes on issues related to church building, religious conversions and interfaith relationships.

Francis has put great emphasis on improving inter-faith relations since his election in 2013, and a year ago he met the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb in the Vatican.

That meeting unfroze relations after Al-Azhar, a 1,000-year-old mosque and university center, cut contacts with the Vatican in 2011 over what it said were repeated insults towards Islam from Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict.

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