It was an historic pastoral visit the one performed by Pope Francis in Egypt. An important and courageous journey that the successor of Peter has strongly wanted and never questioned despite the recent attacks on the two Copt churches of Tanta and Alexandria that caused dozens of deaths and injuries during Palm Sunday. The Pontiff, in his eighteenth international visit, wanted to be present as a messenger and operator of peace right there where there are serious situations of violence. “Today – he stated at the conference held in Cairo after the embrace with Ahmad al-Tayyib, grand imam of al-Azhar – we need builders of peace, not of weapons… not provocateurs of conflicts; we need firemen and not incendiaries; we ned preachers of reconciliation and not auctioneers of destruction”. As usual, the Bishop of Rome has spoken with frankness and openly denouncing those who are authentic sowers of death and inviting everyone to unmask those who dress the violence with sacredness, preaching enmity and selling illusions about the afterlife.
Sometimes it seems that in this time there is no more space for dialog nor for compromise; instead, we rise always higher barricades between nations, between citizens, sometimes even between relatives, always opening the way to new and dangerous scenarios of hostilities. In this context, the lack of respect for religious values of other peoples, the terrorist fundamentalism and the discontent of some social strata, are elements that are always ready of feeding themselves and explode. Fundamentalism is a serious form of counterfeiting faith that comes from the conviction of being able to impose to anyone the acceptance of one’s own vision of reality. The first victim of this imaginary war of religion is the Truth, trampled upon by those who, perjuring in the name of the Lord, define it “holy” trying in this way to cover their real mere economic and power interests. The Pope reiterated a clear “no” to the hypocrite proclamations of those who incite to hatred and to the atrocities committed in the name of the Creator. The one God, in fact, has created us for good and wants that everyone lives in peace as a member of the same human family. The Holy Father also took stance against the “demagogic populisms which certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability”.
In the intense two days’ journey, between institutional, interreligious and ecumenical dimensions on one side and the pastoral on the other side, he met the Egyptian President Al-Sisi, the Coptic Pope Tawadros II, the faithful, the Bishops and the religious of the Coptic-catholic community. During the Mass presided at the Stadium “Air Defence” of the Egyptian capital, also attended by Muslims and Orthodox, he noted that “God likes only faith professed with life, because the only permissible extremism for believers is the one of charity! Any other extremism is not from God and He does not like it!”. The dangerous wake of disputes and suspicion can only be stopped through reconciliation, that does not mean to renounce one’s own identity. The massacres of defenceless people do not stop the many that, within civil society, believe in the value of peace and work to create bridges of encounter, friendship, dialog between the different faiths in such a way as to make the barriers of prejudice and intolerance collapse. The violence dehumanizes the human being and will never succeed to stop that desire, innate in every man, to seek, receive and rely on the other, regardless of social and religious differences. And then the testimony of the “pilgrim of peace in the Egypt of peace”, as the Pope defined himself at the beginning of the journey, can be a viaticum for a new journey of confront between different cultures, from common values such as family, solidarity and life, valuable goods to be always protected. Building peace also means to reject the revenge, recognize one’s own mistakes, accept the apologies without looking for it and, finally, be open to forgiveness.