Evaluering av pavens Egyptbesøk

Statements by Program Director of Vatican Radio

CAIRO, FEB 28 (ZENIT).- John Paul II's journey to the origins of the Covenant between God and man, which took place from February 24-26, with the significant stage in Sinai, which is in the custody of St. Catherine's Monastery, an ancient fortress of stone and prayer, was surrounded by other important meetings for the promotion of dialogue between Christians and Muslims. At the end of the Holy Father's 90th international trip, the moment has arrived to make an initial evaluation his visit to Egypt. The evaluation was made by Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican Radio's program director, who accompanied the Pope on his pilgrimage.

-- One of the most surprising meetings of this trip was, perhaps, the Pontiff's visit with Grand Imam Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of Al-Azhar Mosque and University. Has this visit served to increase understanding between Christians and Muslims?

-- Fr. Lombardi: Undoubtedly. The Grand Imam Tantawi is one of the most prestigious personalities in the Muslim world and the highest authority of Sunni Islam [in Egypt]. Therefore, what he does, and the way he conducts himself, is a sign for many faithful of Islam. The fact that he was so cordial, so welcoming of the Pope is a sign of great hope. It must not be forgotten that this meeting was carefully prepared, as Cardinal Francis Arinze and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue have cultivated friendly relations with Al-Azhar for years. In this case, it was demonstrated that long-term work bears extraordinarily significant fruits. In addition, it was seen that beyond the intellectual, cultural and theological dialogue, personal meetings have a very important value. The Holy Father's meeting with this most cordial, affable person is one of the great pictures of inter-religious dialogue.

-- The dialogue with the Coptic Orthodox community, the majority of Egyptian Christians, was also cordial. In this connection it could be said that the great news of the trip was the Pope's expression of his willingness to discuss with "separated brothers" the different forms of exercising the primacy as Peter's successor. How was this message received by the Orthodox?

-- Fr. Lombardi: To tell the truth, the meeting with Shenouda III and the Copts was above all of a personal nature, as it sought to break the ice of mistrust, and to offer expressions of cordiality and affection. From my perspective, the significant words of these meetings were what Shenouda said to the Pope: "We love you." And the Pope's reply, who added spontaneously, "We also love Pope Shenouda." I think this was the fundamental moment of the meeting.

The Holy Father's willingness to discuss, so to speak, the ways to exercise his ministry as Bishop of Rome is surely a fundamental point of the ecumenical encyclical "Ut Unum Sint," and it continues to be a fundamental proposal directed to the Orthodox. Unfortunately, Orthodoxy is so fragmented internally that this proposal can only be taken up by one or another speaker, for in reality Orthodoxy does not have one effective speaker, capable of receiving it and giving a reply that is valid for the whole of Orthodoxy. At least this is the situation at present. Therefore, I think we are still at a moment in which there is an attempt to improve relations with different Churches to create a more favorable climate that will also serve to address common problems, as great as the exercise of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.

-- Egyptian Catholics live in a country in which almost 95% of the population is Muslim. They only number 200,000. What did the Pontiff's visit mean to them?

-- Fr. Lombardi: It was a great opportunity to meet among themselves and with the Pope, something they had never been able to do. The great Mass on February 25 in the morning, in the Cairo Sports Palace, was a surprise even for them, when they saw communities that had come from all corners of Egypt, small minorities that, together, feel like a living community, in spite of their enormous diversity of rites and traditions.

As is always the case when he visits countries where the Church is in the minority, the Pope offered this Catholic community the possibility to be more aware of itself, to feel encouraged, loved, to realize it exists and is significant, that it is not as unimportant as it might think it is. In particular, it perceived that it is more Egyptian than what is said by those who accuse it of being a foreign Church in Egyptian land. No, it is a Church of Egyptians, Egyptian in its variety, its tradition and the Pope made it feel that way and, in addition, full of hope.

Zenit - The World Seen From Rome

av Webmaster publisert 05.03.2000, sist endret 05.03.2000 - 12:25