John Paul's visit to Egypt
The overflowing streets direct an endless motorcade of eager hopefuls to one of country’s busiest streets. Vehicles slow to a molasses-like pace as they drive past the 6th of October war memorial, a tribute to the ultimate sacrifice for peace, to unload their passengers at the entrance of Cairo Stadium. It was on the 24th of February 2000 that over 20,000 Muslims and Christians endured brutal traffic, exhaustive security checks and daunting lines to take part in the iconic congregation led by Pope John Paul II in Cairo, Egypt. “We do not know each other sufficiently; let us therefore find ways to meet” was the beautiful slogan of his visit. Among the Muslims was ex-President Hosni Mubarak, who greeted the Pope and exclaimed the need for unity across faiths and borders. In addition, Pope John held a prayer service in a Cathedral and visited a leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Tantawi of al-Azhar University, to discuss the same issues. "The pope is an intelligent and wise man who defends peace, love and moral values.” a Vatican news release quoted Tantawi. The positive reverberations of this gathering sparked leaders of this nation, in their battle against terror and conflict, to reach out across the Mediterranean to initiate a worldwide calling for peace and understanding. Their calls did not go unanswered. In response to an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, "Pope Francis will make an apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt," the Vatican announced March 18. Details of the two-day trip to Cairo will be published soon. In May 2016, El Tayeb was received by Pope Francis for a historic meeting in the Vatican. "I do not think it is right to identify Islam with violence," the Pope told reporters. "This is not right and it is not true." Known for his incredible commitment to interfaith dialogue and empathy, Pope Francis is a harmonic force in a world full of dissonance, and his visit to Egypt will undoubtedly help bridge the gap.