Thousands of joyful people attended a mass held by Pope Francis on Saturday in the well-secured Air Defense Stadium, in the attendance of several figures from the Egyptian Catholic Church.
During the prayer, which was dubbed “The Pope of Peace in the Land of Peace”, Francis asked the worshippers to pray for refugees and victims of war and terrorism. His visit is aimed at standing in solidarity with Coptic Christians and uttering a call for peace and tolerance with heads of Egypt’s Muslim religious institutions.
In the stadium, where hundreds of military and police personnel were present to secure the prayer, Francis recited parts from the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles. Members of the audience cheered and waved flags of Egypt and the Vatican. Unofficial counts say that the number of Catholics in Egypt is estimated to be around 270,000 people, whereas there is a Coptic population of around 15 million.
The visit of Francis is the first visit by a Roman Catholic pope since 2000, when Pope John Paul II visited Egypt. Francis met with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Pope Tawadros II, and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.
The mass included around 15,000 people. He started the Mass with the traditional Arabic greeting “Peace be Upon You.”
During the sermon, Pope Francis stated that violence cannot be related to the name of the divine, adding that “true faith” fuels love, mercy, and respecting others, as well as “pushing our hearts to defend the rights of others with the same power with which we defend our rights.”
He also added that the only fanaticism that should be allowed is the “fanaticism of love”, while saying that true faith “is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest, and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost, without distinction, and without preference.”
After the mass, Francis visited the Coptic community in Egypt. Later he visited the Coptic Theological Seminary, where he met with representatives of different Christian factions.