Pope Francis will go forward with a planned visit to Egypt this month, despite two bombings at Coptic Christian churches over the weekend, Vatican officials told reporters on Monday.
The pontiff is due to visit Cairo on April 28 and April 29 at the invitation of Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as well at Catholic bishops in Egypt.
The trip is partly aimed at boosting interfaith relations. The pope is scheduled to meet with the grand imam of al-Azhar and the head of the Coptic Christian church.
Bombs went off at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Sunday, killing more than 40 people and injuring dozens of others. The attacks occurred on Palm Sunday ― one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, and the Egyptian president declared a three-month state of emergency.
Greg Burke, director of the Holy See press office, told journalists on Monday that “the Pope’s trip to Egypt proceeds as scheduled” in spite of the attacks.
Monsignor Angelo Becciu, the third-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, said in an interview published Monday in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera: “There is no doubt the Holy Father will maintain his offer to go to Egypt. Egypt has assured us that everything will go as well as possible, so we will go confidently.
“What happened caused disorder and tremendous suffering, but it cannot stop the pope’s mission of peace,” Becciu added.
Coptic Christians make up the majority of the Egypt’s roughly 9 million Christians. Since the time of their split from mainstream Christians in 451 AD, Coptic Christians have been the targets of violence and persecution.
Pope Francis was celebrating a Palm Sunday Mass for tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square when the Vatican received word of the bombings. In swiftly prepared comments, he said: “I pray for the dead and the victims. May the Lord convert the hearts of people who sow terror, violence and death and even the hearts of those who produce and traffic in weapons.”