Johannes Paul II er den første paven som besøker Egypt

VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2000 (VIS) - This morning, John Paul II travelled to the Arab Republic of Egypt where he is to make a Jubilee pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, one of the places linked to the history of salvation. This journey, the 90th outside Italy of his pontificate, represents the first visit by a Pope to that country.

According to the latest Statistical Yearbook of the Church, updated to December 31 1998, Egypt, the most populous country in Africa after Nigeria and the most populous of the Arab world, has 65.9 million inhabitants, the great majority of whom are Muslims. Under ten percent of Egyptians belong to the Orthodox Coptic Church (Coptic, from the name the ancient Greeks gave to Egypt), and there are 222,000 Catholics who represent 0.34 percent of the total population. The Catholics are divided into seven rites: Coptic, Greek, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian, Chaldean and Latin.

There are 14 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 219 parishes and 201 other pastoral centers. There are 15 bishops (as of 31 December 1999), 445 priests, 1,299 religious, one lay member of a secular institute and 1,376 catechists. Major seminarians number 111.

The central moment of this papal trip will be the ceremony on Mount Sinai, during which the Holy Father will commemorate the alliance between God and Moses and the journey of the Jewish people from slavery under the pharaohs to the Promised Land.

Furthermore, the Pope will meet Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and make two courtesy visits: the first to His Holiness Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, and the second to Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of Al-Azhar University. This university was founded as a mosque-school of Shiite theology by the Fatimids (a dynasty of caliphs) in 973, four years after their entry into Egypt. From the 19th century it was challenged by competition from Western educational systems, but it now plays a role as arbiter of modern Islamic thought. Al-Azhar is committed to spreading Islam throughout the world and it is through the university that Egypt exercises its religious influence.

The Bible recalls Egypt as being the place of God's prodigies but also that of slavery under the pharaohs, as the country to which the Holy Family fled and as a harsh and foreign land. It was here that the first schism in the Christian world took place, following the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Vatican Information Service

av Webmaster publisert 25.02.2000, sist endret 25.02.2000 - 00:08