Pope Francis to Visit Egypt's Persecuted Copts

Reports Pope Francis to visit Egypt last weekend of April

In 2016, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al Tayyb, visited Pope Francis in the Vatican, helping to pave the way for the pontiff's trip.

On Saturday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will be visiting Egypt from April 28 to 29 at the invitation from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian Catholic bishops, the pope of the Coptic Church of Alexandria and the Al-Azhar.

In a recent interview with a German newspaper, Pope Francis suggested the possibility of a trip to Egypt but did not offer details regarding the date or program.

The Apostolic Voyage to Egypt will be Pope Francis' eighteenth pastoral visit outside of Italy.

Last month, the Vatican's point man on Muslim relations, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, participated in a conference at Al-Azhar focused on how Muslim and Catholic leaders can work to counter fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion. That meeting was seen as reopening an important channel for Catholic-Muslim dialogue after Al-Azhar had frozen relations with the Vatican.

This year there's also been a spate of murders of Coptic Christians, leading many to flee the El-Arish region of Egypt where numerous killings happened.

It is not the first time the pope has talked about exorcising demons from a believer's person, and he generally refers more frequently than his predecessors to the devil, characterizing him as a physical presence in this world.

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

Most of Egypt's Christians are members of the Orthodox church led by Tawadros. Orthodox Copts account for almost 10 percent of the majority Muslim nation's 92 million-strong population.

One year ago, the Pope had been true to one of his goals and met the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb in the Vatican.

Christians often complain of discrimination, citing their apparent exclusion from top positions in the security services, academia and the diplomatic service.

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