Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive at 2 p.m. local time in Cairo Friday, on a two-day visit to Egypt focused on peace for the nation and solidarity with the oft-wounded Coptic Christian community there.
His official reception will be followed immediately by a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at the presidential residence in Cairo. The pope also plans meetings with other high-level political and religious leaders, including the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and His Holiness Patriarch Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Church.
“I would like this visit to be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place,” the pope said in a statement.
“I would also hope that my visit will make a fruitful contribution to interreligious dialogue with the followers of Islam and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.”
In a social media message Thursday, the Roman Catholic leader asked for prayers for his journey.
Concerns about security have remained high, particularly in the immediate wake of the Palm Sunday bombings at Coptic worship sites earlier this month. The pontiff plans a visit to the site of a December attack at Church of St. Peter and Paul in Cairo.
Livestream video of the pope’s visit to Egypt is available from the Vatican media website.