Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pope John Paul II Completes Egypt Visit

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pope John Paul II Completes Egypt Visit

Article excerpt

POPE JOHN PAUL II COMPLETES EGYPT VISIT

A highlight of his Jubilee year pilgrimage to the Middle East was a Feb. 24 mass celebrated by John Paul II before 20,000 in Cairo's indoor stadium -- a mass characterized by calls for peace, religious tolerance, and understanding.

"We do not know each other sufficiently; let us therefore find ways to meet," reporters quoted the aged pontiff, whose message was repeated throughout the trip. Likewise he did not mince words for extremists who have recently misused religion against Coptic Christians, "To do harm, to promote violence and conflict in the name of religion is a terrible contradiction and a great offense against God."

It was more than just words. In attendance at the Mass were many Muslims and Coptic Christians, as well as members of Egypt's Catholic community. Among the Muslims was President Hosni Mubarak, who greeted the pontiff and emphasized the need for Christians and Muslims to unite together in submission to God.

Interfaith gatherings brought leaders of various denominations together including a prayer service in Cairo's two-month-old New Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt, where Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic church reciprocated John Paul's message with his own hopeful appeals for unity.

No less significant was a visit to leading Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of al-Azhar University, where the same issues were discussed. A Vatican news release quoted Tantawi, "The pope is an intelligent and wise man who defends peace, love and moral values. …

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