AsiaNews has a great number of very good journalists and guest authors who write for them about current events, noteworthy people and historical moments in Asia and the Middle East. I felt the two pieces I offer below were newsworthy because of the papal trip, of course, but also because of the historical role of Egypt in the Middle East and on the world scene.
You can follow the various moments of Pope Francis’ 27-hour visit to Cairo via EWTN television, radio reports and on www.ewtn.com
When I was a member of the Holy See delegation to the 1994 UN conference on population in Cairo, we had dinner one night at the residence of the nuncio to Egypt, where Pope Francis will spend the night tonight. I remember it as a large, older home with some lovely gardens, a very private and tranquil setting in a bustling city of so many millions. If I find my photos (no digital cameras then!) I’ll post them.
VATICAN INSIDER, A TRIBUTE TO MOTHER ANGELICA
Just a brief programming note as I am dedicating most of today’s column and various additional posts on Facebook to Pope Francis’ apostolic trip to Egypt. My “guest” this weekend, so to speak, is Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization who, on March 27 celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the first anniversary of Mother Angelica’s passing. I offer his reflections in his homily as well as a brief interview we did with him after Mass.
In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=
EGYPT, IN FESTIVE MODE, ON FULL ALERT, READY TO WELCOME POPE FRANCIS
by Loula Lahham
The President of the Republic al-Sisi personally supervising the security apparatus. Cairo wants to show itself as a tolerant, fraternal and welcoming country. Today, the intervention at al-Azhar peace conference. Over 35,000 people (accredited) for tomorrow’s Mass at the aeronautics academy. More extremist threats against Christians in Minya.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Today, Friday, April 28, an Alitalia plane will land at Cairo International Airport, with His Holiness Pope Francis, and dozens of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, interpreters and assistants.
For some days, security preparations have been at the highest level and are directly under the personal supervision of the President of the Republic. The goal is to show the world an Egypt characterized by tolerance, fraternity, solidarity, terms that run counter to those of all who perpetuate conspiracies and want to erode the nation, drowning it in religious obscurantism.
This goal has united everyone: the presidency, the army, the interior ministry and the local authorities. The streets that will be crossed by the papal cavalcade have been washed, the trees watered, parking banned in the neighborhood where the apostolic nunciature is located, which will host the Pope during his stay in Egypt. Tension is visibly growing. No mistakes will be allowed. Official Egypt wants to prove that it is up to an event of this magnitude.
Yesterday morning, the international peace conference, organized by al-Azhar, the highest instance in the Sunni Islamic world, began, in the presence of, among others, the spiritual leaders of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches.
The main theme of the conference will be the challenges and dangers that today pose a threat to world peace. And also, and above all, the “false interpretation of religious texts,” as the great imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb has pointed out. Pope Frances speech is scheduled for this afternoon at the closing of the meeting.
Moreover, the spiritual leader of the Coptic orthodox expressed his joy in receiving the Holy Father for a very fraternal dialogue between “Catholics” and “Orthodox”. And at the end of this first day, Pope Francis will pronounce a special ecumenical prayer for the memory of all the victims who have died from terrorism of a religious matrix in Egypt.
On Saturday morning, April 29, at 10 am local time solemn mass will be celebrated at the Cairo military aeronautics stadium in the eastern suburbs of the Egyptian capital, which can hold up to 35,000 people. Priests have been called to participate in the liturgy and for the distribution of communion to the faithful; They will wear a stole bearing the official logo of the papal visit, with the slogan in English and Arabic: “The Pope of Peace visits an Egypt of Peace”.
The choirs of the six oriental Catholic rites (Coptic, Greek, Syro, Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean) have finished their preparations and the attendance of the faithful will only be admissible upon special invitations sent to some 237 Catholic churches as well as schools and religious institutes . There is a central altar dedicated to the Pope; the stadium stands are decorated with flags of the Vatican and Egypt. All or almost all preparations have been carried out by the Office of Religious Affairs and the Department of Egyptian Army Engineering. Several local and international television broadcasters will broadcast the event live.
The Pope will arrive half an hour before the scheduled start time for Mass and greet the crowd of the faithful who will have come from the four corners of the country from an open golf car. The Mass will last about 90 minutes and will be preceded by several documentaries on the Vatican and the Pope.
In an exclusive statement issued at the last moment, Msgr. Emmanuel Ayad, bishop of Luxor and head of the Egyptian organizing committee, said: “Everything is fine and the preparations are almost over. I am proud to see the participation of all the official bodies of Egypt in the context of this great event. Everyone is doing their best. The President of the Republic and the army did much more than we could have ever imagined. Moreover, we are faced with a visit not only to the local Church, but one that has taken on a greater magnitude that embraces the entire Egyptian nation. The Pope is expected with great joy and excitment by all, all of Egypt loves him and sees in him a great builder of peace. ”
We should remember that while Egypt wants to portray a welcoming and tolerant image, yesterday the Christians in a village of the governorate of Minya (about 245 km south of Cairo) called Kom Al-loufi, could not pray in their church because of extremist threats.
THE MODERN DAY PLAGUES OF EGYPT
by Guy Djandji*
The country that Pope Francis will visit is afflicted by a failed economy, overpopulation, corruption, pollution, terrorism and fatalism. But it is home to a much bigger treasure than its millennial history: the joyous heart of its people.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – In the Book of Exodus, in the Old Testament, God deals with Egypt with ten punishments to punish the Pharaoh who prevented the Jews from leaving the country and persuading him to let them go. Among the calamities that Yahweh inflicted upon the Egyptians, we notice the most extreme: the water of the Nile turn into a river of blood; a plague of locusts swarm all over the earth; The country falls into darkness and, in the end, the most terrible, the death of the firstborn of Egypt. The rigor of these harsh punishments are striking. Today, Egypt is facing scourges that are equally devastating and which leave those who visit her with a sense of sadness mixed with impotence.
Why is the Egyptian people afflicted by such plagues? Will she ever heal and recover her good health?
Demographics: no doubt one of the major sources of poverty and instability in the country. The population is close to one hundred million and has a growth rate of more than 2.5%. Cairo, the megalopolis whose population is estimated at between 20 and 23 million, attracts hundreds of thousands of new arrivals from rural areas every year. Alexandria, the second largest city, is crumbling under the weight of a population of nearly seven million, which has tripled in 50 years. Egypt is crushed everywhere, its infrastructures cannot meet the demand. Large families are still considered a blessing and their prosperity is measured by the number of children. Religious and cultural factors are difficult to change.