A Symbolic Visit of the Pope to Egypt

May 04, 2017
Source: fsspx.news
Pope Francis met with the imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb.

There are several different political and religious stakes involved in the Holy Father’s visit to Egypt on April 28, 2017, both on the side of the Holy See and on the side of the Al-Azhar University. Here is a presentation of a high-risk visit.

The Holy Father’s airplane landed in Cairo on Friday, April 28, a little after 2:00 p.m. On the agenda for the first day: two protocol visits, one to President el-Sisi, the other to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II. Then an hour-long meeting with the sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University that – before the day consecrated to Coptic Catholics on Saturday – represents one of the defining moments of the pontifical visit.

For, whether we are on the side of the pope or the imam of al-Azhar, the expectations are quite different. Francis wishes to convince the Catholic public that there is no war of religions going on. What is happening in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq is rather a clash of civilizations between barbarism and humanism.

The pope is pursuing this same idea in Egypt: arguing that Christianity and Islam are on the same side against barbarism. Mutatis mutandis, this is a practical application of Nostra Aetate, the document from the Second Vatican Council that introduced a new vision of relations between the Church and non-Christian religions. Eastern Christians, driven out, persecuted, and slaughtered in the name of Allah, will have a hard time swallowing this; just as they had a hard time  seeing the pope bring back in his plane from Lesbos in April 2016 three families of Syrian Muslims – and not a single Christian.

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar University – one of Sunni Islam’s capitals – has a very different goal in mind for this visit: he wishes to establish his legitimacy. Helpless in the face of Muslim fundamentalism, whether it's the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamic State, the imam intends to stay in the hypothetical middle that consists in defending so-called “moderate” Islam. But this position is not welcomed by many Muslims: for them, being a “moderate Muslim” is a synonym for being “moderately Muslim”. A good many of them do not see things in this way.

The imam of al-Azhar wishes in a way to present himself as the authorized voice of an appeased Islam, as a way of imposing from above a legitimacy that is not given him from below. But this position is a risky wager: will Francis’ visit change things?

As for the jihadists, they, too have a goal: that of using terror to overthrow the Egyptian State, in order to provoke chaos and establish an Islamic State on the smoldering ruins. The Muslim Brotherhood has gone with another strategy: they wish to infiltrate existing structures, if possible using democratic means.

Sources: FSSPX.News – 4/29/17