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Pope Francis Egypt Visit to Bring ‘Comfort and Encouragement’ to Christians in Middle East

In a new video-message, Pope Francis greets the people of Egypt prior to his upcoming Cairo visit, saying that he intends the visit to be “a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East.”

“Our world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land,” Francis said, referring to the recent twin suicide bombings by Islamic terrorists in Christian churches on Palm Sunday.

The attacks killed 49 people and left more than 100 injured, and have been defined as “an attack on Christians simply because they are Christians.”

The Palm Sunday bombings followed an attack in December by a jihadist suicide bomber who blew himself up in a packed Cairo church, killing 29 people.

Egypt’s Christians are reportedly looking forward to the Pope’s arrival on Friday, seeing his two-day visit as a show of support for their minority community. It will be the pontiff’s first visit to Egypt, the most populous Arab nation with a population that is 90 percent Muslim.

As well as offering support for persecuted Christians, the Pope said he hopes his visit will also be “a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.”

“I would also hope that my visit will make a fruitful contribution to interreligious dialogue with the followers of Islam and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church,” he said.

Peppering his words with occasional expressions in Arabic, the Pope spoke of Egypt as “the cradle of civilization, the gift of the Nile, the land of sun and hospitality, the land where Patriarchs and Prophets lived, and where God, Benevolent and Merciful, the Almighty and One God, made his voice heard.”

He also underscored the importance of Egypt for Christianity, since Jesus lived there with his parents for an extended period of time when he was a small boy. I am truly happy to be coming to the country that, “over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod.  I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family!” he said.

The Pope said that in the face of violence, the world “needs peace, love and mercy.”

“It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.  Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity,” he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

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