The Pope’s Apostolic Visit to Egypt April 28 – 29, 2017

Source: FSSPX News

Pope Francis meets Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of the Islamic university of Al-Azhar in Cairo, on April 28, 2017.

In response to the invitation extended by Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of the Islamic university of Al-Azhar, of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, and the bishops of the Egyptian Catholic Church, Pope Francis travelled to Cairo on April 28th for a brief 30-hour stay.

The theme of his apostolic visit to Egypt was “The Pope of peace in an Egypt of peace.” “He wishes to be a messenger of peace, in the place where there is the greatest need to declare and to work for peace,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, told the Vatican Television Centre on April 27. About ecumenism, the cardinal said this trip to Egypt “will cement communion” with the Coptic Orthodox Church. He said the Copts, whether Orthodox or Catholic, “are targeted by the same Islamist violence because of their faith.” In the same way, he stated, dialogue between the Pope and the authorities of Al-Azhar is “indispensable and fundamental for peace, and all religions ought to feel involved.”

With regard to the interreligious aspect of the Pope’s trip, Vaticanist Giuseppe Rusconi’s website Rossporora published on April 27 an interview with Jesuit Father Samir Khalil, a doctor of Oriental theology and Islamic studies. Born in Cairo in 1938 and a Jesuit since 1955, he has been a professor at the Oriental Pontifical Institute for 43 years and has also taught for 31 years at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut, where he founded and directs the Centre for Christian Arabic Documentation and Research. His thoughts shed a light on the Pope’s trip that is absent from the official media.

Fr. Samir explains what the University of Al-Azhar is. “First of all, it is nothing like a university in the Western sense of the word, because its purpose is to train imams. It is more or less a large faculty of Islamic theology.” When the Koran is compared to the Gospel, according to the Jesuit, “the fundamental difference is in the content of the two texts. In the Gospel there is no passage that says, ‘You must kill someone.’ Even if someone strikes you, you must turn the other cheek. The Koran is on the contrary full of violence. What is more, no Christian believes he ought to imitate each action of Christ literally; rather, he tries to think of how they would apply today, whereas these Moslems wish to reproduce materially all the words and actions of their founder.”

About Pope Francis: “[H]is goal is to do everything possible to be reconciled publicly with the Moslem world. For him, all religions are religions of peace and all religions have their fundamentalists. This is evident from some of his off-the-cuff comments in response to journalists on the papal airplane. As when, on the way back from an apostolic visit to Poland, he put the violence of Moslem fundamentalists on the same level as that of someone in Italy, a Catholic country, who kills his girlfriend or his mother-in-law….The fact is that the Pope came to know Islam through a friendly imam in Buenos Aires….With regard to his meeting with President Al-Sissi, a good Moslem, but also anxious to separate the religious from the political sphere, I hope the Pope will insist on the necessity of treating Egyptian Christians as citizens like everyone else. For years we have claimed that citizenship does not depend on religious affiliation and we hope that this time something will move in this direction. At the University of Al-Azhar, I think he will give an address mainly on the theme of non-violence. I hope he will also refer to the necessary distinction between politics and religion. It must be made clear that Al-Azhar speaks for its own, not for all of Egypt.” Fr. Khalil is condemning Islam implicitly here, which in itself does not distinguish the religious from the temporal, and in which civil law is the religious law, sharia.

In another interview on April 26 with Aymeric Pourbaix from news agency iMedia, Fr. Samir Khalil recalled the history of Islam: “The fundamentalist movements began in the 30s, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk abolished the symbolic caliphate of the Ottoman Empire. At this time the Moslem Brotherhood appeared, the Salafi movement spread and Wahhabism took an organized form with the statehood of Saudi Arabia. It was a reaction against the secularization of the Arabic world, with the dream of rebuilding a medieval caliphate.”

“In the 19th century, the West was considered attractive, to the point of influencing the Egyptian Renaissance (Nahda), including in its Constitution, inspired by Switzerland and France. At the time, sharia was not part of the Constitution. It was only under Sadate that Article 2 was introduced [which stipulates that Islam is the Egyptian religion of state. –Ed.] The recent attacks in Egypt can be seen as a message to President Al-Sissi, who had the largest church in Egypt built in Cairo, beside the largest mosque in the country… For Islamists, he is considered a usurper.”

Sources: Osservatore Romano – Rossoporpora – – iMedia – FSSPX.News - 10/05/17