Pope Francis has locked in an April trip to Egypt, showing that interfaith dialogue is a priority, reports Catholic News Agency.
He will visit the country on April 28-29, in response to an invitation from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, as well as Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the bishops of the local Catholic Church, the Vatican has announced.
While the full program for the pontiff's trip will be published shortly, he will almost certainly visit Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which has recently partnered with the Vatican to discuss combatting religious justification for violence.
The trip will likely focus largely on interfaith dialogue and Catholic-Muslim relations – especially in combating Christian persecution – continuing dialogue from a seminar Vatican officials attended in February.
Persecution of Christians has long been an issue in Egypt, with a recent spike in attacks causing even more reason for alarm. There have been 40 reported murders of Christians in Egypt in the past three months, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said in a statement last month.
Francis was invited to visit Egypt by Coptic Catholic bishops during their ad limina visit to the Vatican last month, during which they also gave a report on the state of the Church in their country.
The Pope had also received invitations from President el-Sisi and Sheikh el-Tayyib, who occupies a prestigious place in the Sunni Muslim world.
Pope Francis to visit Egypt April 28-29 (Catholic News Agency)