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Pope urges mediation in North Korea spat

13 Mai 2017

An estimated 25,000 devout Christians from all sects attended the Cairo stadium at which Francis raised the notions of peace and compassion. "Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!"

"Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, and many prophets of destruction and condemnation ... may you be the sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony", he said.

He then was received by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, at the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo.

In his speech, the pontiff said that many countries are ready to help in peace talks like Norway.

Already, attacks against Christians in northern Sinai, the epicenter of the insurgency, have forced hundreds of families to flee the region, seeking refuge elsewhere in Egypt.

For numerous worshippers that gathered in a soccer stadium for the ceremony, the 80-year-old pontiff's two-day visit was a devotional crutch at a time of great tumult that many hoped would also help alter their nation's image as it grapples with terrorism. Pope Francis concluded with the words, "Long live Egypt!"

Francis made the appeal during a landmark visit to Cairo's Al-Azhar, the revered, 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islam learning that trains clerics and scholars from around the world.

But even at this liturgy the specter of brutal attacks against the Catholic and Coptic believers who total just 10 percent of Egypt's 92-million strong population loomed as the pontiff reiterated the message that true religion has nothing to do with violence.

The Pope had arrived in Egypt on a trip created to bridge the gap between Muslim-Christian brotherhoods and show solidarity amid rising threats of terror.

Upon his arrival Friday, Francis urged Egypt's Muslim leaders to reject violence in God's name and instead teach the young tolerance and respect of people of different faiths.

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Francis began the Mass as he did his address to religious leaders at Al Azhar conference center the day before, with a traditional Arabic greeting that again provoked instant applause: "Peace be with you".

The test failed. Trump, who earlier this week said the USA could have a "major, major conflict" with North Korea, responded with a tweet.

In his homily, Francis called on the faithful to reject fanaticism in all its forms.

"They could not understand why Almighty God had not saved him from such a disgraceful death", he said. "National leaders, institutions and the media are obliged to undertake this urgent and grave task".

"With all these accomplishments (of the 21st century), how come peace has become a lost paradise?"

Francis reminded the crowd that Egypt's ancient civilization valued the quest for knowledge and open-minded education, saying a similar commitment is needed today to combat the "barbarity" of religious extremism.

On Friday, he visited St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which was the site of a deadly bombing in December.

He highlighted that although a Muslim himself, he has dear friends who are Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, and they are all happy with the Vatican and Pope Francis.

Following the signing of the agreement, Pope Francis and Pope Tawdros led joint ecumenical prayers at St Peter and St Paul Church, that was subject to an Islamic State group terror attack that killed over 30 people in December.

Security is exceptionally tight around Cairo and the sports stadium where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for Egypt's tiny Catholic community.

Pope urges mediation in North Korea spat