Pope Francis appealed for dialogue to battle extremism

Vastavam web: Pope Francis appealed for dialogue to battle extremism as he addressed thousands of faithful today 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 three Egyptian church bombings earlier this month and in December, gave the country’s beleaguered Christian community an occasion to be joyful.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.”It spurs us on to spread, defend and live out the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity.
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.Also on Friday, Francis met Coptic Orthodox patriarch Pope Tawadros II, and both attended an emotional service at the church attacked in the December suicide bombing.On Saturday, the crowd cheered and released yellow and white balloons as Francis lapped the Cairo stadium in a golf cart, waving to the crowd as a chorus sang a joyous hymn.Worshippers old and young, nuns and priests, had been bused in under tight security with Egypt under a state of emergency following the church bombings.It was, said Coptic Catholic engineer Maged Francis, a “historic occasion”.
After the mass, the pope travelled to a seminary in Cairo where he urged his audience to promote dialogue.Heavy security surrounded his tightly scheduled trip as he travelled from one engagement to another in a closed car.IS has threatened further attacks after the suicide bombings that killed 29 people in Cairo in December and 45 people in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria north of the capital earlier this month.He criticised what he called “demagogic forms of populism… on the rise”, saying they were unhelpful to peace.In another speech attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the pope also called for “unconditional respect” for human rights.