Pope Francis rejected fanaticism and appealed for charity on Saturday as he addressed thousands of faithful during a visit to Egypt to promote reconciliation with Muslims and support its embattled Christians. His visit, coming after the Islamic State group (IS) killed dozens of worshippers in church bombings earlier this month, gave the country’s beleaguered Christian community an occasion to be joyful. “The only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity. Any other fanaticism does not come from God,” the pope said at a mass for Egypt’s Catholics.
“True faith… moves our heart to love everyone… It makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome but a brother and sister to be loved,” he told a crowd of about 15,000 pilgrims. The mass came on the second and last day of a visit which saw him plead for tolerance and peace on Friday at a Coptic church bombed by IS in December.
The jihadists have threatened further attacks after the Cairo attack that killed 29 people and suicide blasts in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria north of the capital earlier this month that killed 45. The spiritual leader of the world’s almost 1.3 billion Catholics also became the first pope to visit the headquarters of the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, one of the Muslim world’s leading religious authorities.
On Friday, Francis met Coptic Orthodox patriarch Pope Tawadros II, and both attended an emotional service at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church attacked in December. They prayed at a makeshift shrine for its victims, who were mostly women. They also signed a joint declaration pledging to “strive for serenity and concord through a peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims”. On Saturday, the crowd cheered and released yellow and white balloons as Francis lapped the Cairo stadium in a golf cart, waving to onlookers as a chorus sang a joyous hymn. (AFP)