The Pope to President Al Sisi and Political Authorities: “Egypt is called to condemn and defeat all violence and terrorism.” The invocation of peace for Palestine and Israel, for Syria, for Libya, Yemen, for Iraq, for South Sudan.
“Egypt is called to condemn and vanquish all violence and terrorism.” The call of Pope Francis to the Egyptian authorities is strong, in the second appointment of his short trip to Cairo. The meeting with about 800 representatives of Egyptian institutions, diplomatic corps and civil society takes place in a large salon of the hotel Al-Màsah, a hotel complex directly managed by the Egyptian Defense Ministry, located on an area of 75 thousand Square meters with a flight simulator and its own mosque.
President Al Sisi, who had received the Pontiff in Heliopolis Palace two hours earlier, greeted him, “The resumption of dialogue between al-Azhar and the Catholic Church, is a “positive step,” he says. He also states, “We appreciate Pope Francis’ promotion of peace, tolerance and coexistence among nations” which are “a reason for admiration and respect”. Al-Sisi, recalling that the Pope’s visit coincides with the 70th anniversary of the relations between Egypt and the Vatican, addresses Bergoglio as “a dear guest and a spiritual leader for peoples of different religions.” The president therefore reaffirms Egypt’s determination to ’eradicate terrorism’. The Arab country – he continues – “is at the forefront of terrorism” and has paid a high price in terms of human lives “to counteract it.” Finally, Al-Sisi points out that “a rightful Islam never orders to kill,” but pursues “peace and tolerance.”
As soon as he takes the floor, the Pope first remembers that the sacred family, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph found refuge and hospitality on the Egyptian soil.”Egypt, therefore, “ is a land that in some sense we all feel to be our own!” A land that “ thanks to its history and its particular geographical location, it has a unique role to play in the Middle East and among those countries seeking solutions to pressing and complex problems that need to be faced now in order to avoid the spread of worse violence.” Francis speaks of Islamic terrorism but not only: “I am speaking of the blind and brutal violence caused by different factors: sheer desire for power, the arms trade, grave social problems and that religious extremism which uses the Holy Name of God to carry out unprecedented atrocities and injustices.”
Bergoglio hopes an Egypt “where no one lacks bread, freedom and social justice.” “If all are willing, together, to turn words into actions, authentic aspirations into commitments, written laws into enforced laws, by drawing on the innate genius of the Egyptian people. Egypt thus has a singular task, namely, to strengthen and consolidate regional peace even as it is assaulted on its own soil by senseless acts of violence”
Francis also recalls all the people who, in recent years, “ have given their lives to protect your country: young people, members of the armed forces and police, Coptic citizens and all those nameless victims of various forms of terrorist extremism. I think also of the murders and the threats that have led to an exodus of Christians from northern Sinai. He especially remembers “the victims of the attacks on Coptic churches, both last December and more recently in Tanta and Alexandria.” That is, the last two terrible attacks that bloodied Palm Sunday.
“Development, prosperity and peace – the Pope remembers – are essential goods that merit every sacrifice. They are also goals that require serious work, commitment, adequate methodology and, above all, unconditional respect for human inalienable rights, such as equality between all citizens, religious freedom and expression, without distinction. Objectives that require special attention to the role of women, young people, the poorest and the sick.”
The world scenario, Bergoglio says, is “fragile and complex” and makes it think of what the Pope calls a “ a world war being fought piecemeal.” It needs to be clearly stated that no civilized society can be built without repudiating every ideology of evil, violence and extremism that presumes to suppress others and to annihilate diversity by manipulating and profaning the Sacred Name of God.” Mr. President, you have spoken of this often and on various occasions, with a clarity that merits attention and appreciation.” A significant and non-casual emphasis, which recognizes Al Sisi’s attempt to stem jihadism.
“It is our duty to proclaim together that history does not forgive those who preach justice, but then practice injustice. History does not forgive those who talk about equality, but then discard those who are different. It is our duty to unmask the peddlers of illusions about the afterlife, those who preach hatred in order to rob the simple of their present life and their right to live with dignity, and who exploit others by taking away their ability to choose freely and to believe responsibly.”
“It is our duty,” the Pontiff insists, “to dismantle deadly ideas and extremist ideologies, while upholding the incompatibility of true faith and violence, of God and acts of murder.”