Pope Francis’ recent apostolic visit to Egypt was a moment of strong support and affirmation of persecuted Christians in that country and throughout the Middle East. The Holy Father gave a powerful speech at Al-Azhar mosque and university, the famous Sunni Islamic center of learning in Cairo. There he called religious leaders, unmistakably Islamic, to reject violence. He declared, “Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or the name of God. Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.” He said it is urgent to, “unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity…We have to denounce…every form of hatred in the name of religion, and condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God.”
The Pope explained that violence perpetuated in the name of God is a profanation and, “the negation of every authentic religious expression.” He went on to advocate for religious freedom and civil harmony. He reminded his listeners that we must view each other not as, “enemies to be overcome, but as brothers and sisters to be loved, served and helped.”
This was a courageous address in the heart of the Muslim world. At the same time, the Holy Father reached out in gestures and tones of reconciliation and fraternal kindness to the Islamic people. This is precisely how Jesus Christ would approach this situation. He would firmly announce the truth, but he would always extend the hand of love and friendship.
Please pray for an end to persecution and inter-religious conflict, especially in the Middle East.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Fr. Tim Byerley Pastor