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Catholic leaders: Papal trip was blessing for Christian, Muslim Egyptians

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) – Pope Francis’ historic, 72-hour visit to Cairo has left a profound mark on Egyptians, Catholic leaders said, as they anticipate increased ties with fellow Orthodox Christians and Muslims.

Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, right, attend an ecumenical prayer service at the Church of St. Peter in Cairo April 28. The pope was making a two-day visit to Egypt. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-EGYPT-ORTHODOX April 28, 2017.

“The pope’s visit was a big blessing to the Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians. It boosted the morale of the Egyptian people, especially after the Palm Sunday blasts,” Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian bishops, told Catholic News Service by phone. “He gave a message of love, peace and hope.”

Father Greiche referred to a pair of terrorist attacks April 9 at two Egyptian churches. The Islamic State group claimed credit for the attacks, which killed at least 45 people, injured more than 100 others and shook the Middle East’s largest Christian community to the core.

“The pope’s visit for Catholics in Egypt was a great happening, very positive,” Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir, a noted Egyptian Catholic theologian and Islamic studies scholar, told CNS. The professor teaches at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and St. Joseph’s University in Beirut.

Even more important, he said, was the historic improvement in ecumenical ties between the Catholic and the Coptic Orthodox churches. Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II signed a declaration on common baptism.

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