Pope Francis lands in Egypt in push for ‘fraternity’

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Pope Francis landed in the Egyptian capital on Friday to promote “unity and fraternity” with Muslims and Christians, who have suffered a series of jihadist attacks.

The visit is a “voyage of unity and fraternity,” the pontiff told reporters before he disembarked in Cairo airport to be greeted by Catholic priests and Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail.

It is “less than two days but very intense,” he said.

He was then taken by car to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his Ittahidya presidential palace.

Francis will later meet Muslim and Christian leaders before visiting a church that had been bombed in December.

Security will be extremely tight with Egypt under a state of emergency following two bombings in Coptic churches earlier this month that killed 45 people.

Police and soldiers stood guard outside the Vatican residence in Cairo on Friday and armoured cars were stationed outside the Coptic Orthodox Saint Mark’s Cathedral, which Francis will also visit.

Francis will lead a mass on Saturday.

Ahead of his visit, the 80-year-old pontiff had said that he hoped his 27 hours in Egypt would support the region’s Christians and send a “message of brotherhood” to Muslims.

All of the country’s churches have been placed under additional protection because of the risk of another assault timed to coincide with Francis being in the country.

“Please pray for my journey tomorrow as a pilgrim of peace to Egypt,” Francis said on his Twitter account on the eve of his departure.

– By AFP