Vatican releases itinerary for papal trip to Egypt

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will meet with the
leader of one of the world’s leading Sunni Muslim institutions, the head of the
Coptic Orthodox Church and representatives of the Catholic Church on a two-day
trip to Cairo.

The pope is scheduled to arrive in Cairo April 28 for
courtesy visits with political and religious leaders and deliver a speech, along
with the grand imam of al-Azhar
University, to an international conference on peace. He will celebrate
Mass for the small Catholic community in Cairo the next day and meet with
bishops, clergy, religious and seminarians before returning to Rome April 29.

In mid-March, the Vatican confirmed the pope would make the
trip following an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Catholic bishops in
Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope
Tawadros II and Sheik
Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand
imam of al-Azhar.

It will be the pope’s 18th trip abroad in his four years
as pope and the seventh time he visits a Muslim-majority nation. He will be the
second pope to visit Egypt, after St. John Paul II went to Cairo and Mount
Sinai in 2000.

The Catholic community in Egypt numbers about 272,000, less
than 0.5 percent of the
population, which is 90 percent Sunni Muslim.

In 1998, Catholic-Muslim dialogue was initiated between
Vatican experts and Muslim scholars of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the main
center for Islamic learning for the more than 1 billion Sunni Muslims
worldwide. The trip will come amid increasingly closer relations between the
Vatican and al-Azhar, which is considered the most authoritative
theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam. The pope has also said he sees
the importance of strengthening cooperation between Catholics and Coptic
Orthodox Christians in the face of so many threats to human life and creation.

Here is the pope’s schedule as released by the Vatican.
Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses.

Friday, April 28 (Rome, Cairo)

— 10:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.), Departure from Rome’s Leonardo
da Vinci International Airport for Cairo.

— 2 p.m. (7 a.m.), Arrival at Cairo airport. Official
welcoming ceremony at the Heliopolis
presidential palace. Courtesy visits with el-Sissi and Sheik el-Tayeb. Speeches by the grand
imam and the pope to participants in an international conference on peace.

— 4:40 p.m. (9:40 a.m.), Meeting with local authorities.
Speeches by el-Sissi and Pope Francis. Courtesy visit to Pope Tawadros.
Speeches by Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis.

Saturday, April 29 (Cairo, Rome)

— 10:00 a.m. (3:00 a.m.), Mass in Cairo. Homily by pope.

— 12:15 p.m. (5:15 a.m.), Lunch with Egypt’s bishops and
the papal entourage.

— 3:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m.), Prayer gathering with clergy,
men and women religious, and seminarians. Speech by pope. Farewell ceremony.

— 5 p.m. (10 a.m.), Departure from Cairo airport for

— 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.), Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino

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