Paven ankommet Egypt

VATICAN ( - Pope John Paul II arrived in Egypt in the early afternoon of February 24, to begin the 90th foreign voyage of his pontificate.

"Peace be with you!" the Holy Father said-- using the Arabic phrase that is a traditional greeting among Muslims-- as he stepped off the plane in Cairo. He was greeted by a welcoming delegation that included Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Patriarch Stephanos II Ghattas of the Coptic Catholic Church, and Skeikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of the famous Al-Azhar University.

After crossing the red carpet that was stretched from his plane to the presidential pavilion at the airport, the Holy Father took part in a quiet, solemn welcoming ceremony. The Pope's traveling party included Cardinals Francis Arinze, Achille Silvestrini, and Roger Etchegaray.

In his brief remarks, delivered in English, the Pope emphasized that his trip was a "Jubilee pilgrimage," and should be seen as a spiritual rather than political occasion. "I have been waiting many years to be able to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, and to make a pilgrimage to pray at the holy sites that are connected in a special way with God's interventions in history," he said.

The Pope's opening statement included a few discreet allusions to political affairs. He mentioned his concern for the progress of peace negotiations in the Middle East, and for an end to violence against Christians in Egypt.

Speaking directly to President Mubarak, the Pontiff praised the Egyptian leader for his forthright commitment to peace in the Middle East. He added that all political leaders have a responsibility to promote "justice and rights for everyone." The Pope said that when he traveled to Mount Sinai-- the main focus of his trip to Egypt-- he would pray especially for peace in the Middle East and for harmony across religious lines.

The Pope also addressed warm words of greeting to Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He recalled how Egyptian Christianity, founded by the evangelist St. Mark, has given the Church such great teachers and scholars as Sts. Clement and Catherine of Alexandria, and the Desert Fathers who introduced the monastic tradition.

After the welcoming ceremony at the airport, the Pope traveled by car to the residence of the papal nuncio in downtown Cairo. The motorcade was carefully guarded, with scores of Egyptian police officers stationed along the route, demonstrating the regime's careful effort to provide security for the papal trip.

The Pope's arrival in Egypt was televised across the country by the government-controlled networks. Press officers in the Egyptian government indicate that all of the Pope's public appearances will receive such coverage.

Catholic World News Service - Vatican Update

av Webmaster publisert 05.03.2000, sist endret 05.03.2000 - 12:26