The primate of the Orthodox Church was invited by the Grand Imam of the Al Azhar Mosque, Cheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib. A strong sign of unity among Christians
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will be in Cairo on April 28 and 29, upon invitation of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Mosque, Cheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, during the same days of Pope Francis’ visits. A significant presence that unites Christians and their witness of unity as a sign for peace in the world, during these difficult times with the winds of war blowing. The Pope of Rome, and the Patriarch of Constantinople will therefore be next to the Pope of the Coptic Church Tawadros, whose Christian community was hit and mortally wounded by the attacks carried by the fundamentalists.
Bartholomew I was invited by el-Tayyib to participate to the International Conference on Peace, during which Francis and the Grand Imam are expected to speak. The Orthodox Patriarch had mentioned at the end of Easter Divine Liturgy about the possibility of traveling to Egypt as reported by Alberto Negri on the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore on 16 April. Bartholomew had disclosed a handwritten letter from the Pope, in which Francis thanked him for his friendship and hoped to see him again soon. So, the Patriarch added, “The opportunity could be very close: I have also been invited by the University of Al Azhar in Cairo and on April 28 I could be with Pope Francis at that same event”
Sources close to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople confirmed to Vatican Insider that the decision to accept the invitation has been taken, and that Bartholomew will be in Cairo. The friendship between the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, successors of the apostles and brothers Peter and Andrew, have always been very friendly. Francis and Bartholomew together went to the Holy Land in May 2014 and together prayed in the Holy Sepulcher. A few days later, the Pope asked for the Patriarch’s presence in the Vatican gardens during a prayer for peace in the region. The following November, Francis visited Turkey and participated in the liturgical celebration of St. Andrew in the patriarchal church of Fanar. A year ago, in April 2016, Bartholomew invited Francis for a flash visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, home of a large refugee camp, during what was the Pope’s first entirely “ecumenical” journey, since Francis always remained next to the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Orthodox archbishop of Athens Hyeronimos without any specific celebrations or meetings aimed at the Catholic community specifically.
The simultaneous presence of the Pope and the Orthodox Patriarch at the meeting in the great Sunni university, just a few days after the attacks that have bloodied the Passover of the Copts in Egypt is thus an eloquent sign of unity and proximity among Christians of different denominations, while it also expresses the will to dialogue together with those Muslims who reject violence and justification of terrorism and massacres in the name of religion.