The Latest: Pope urges Egypt’s clergy to remain positive

April 29, 2017
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to celebrate Mass for Egypt's tiny Catholic community, at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo, Saturday, April 29, 2017. Pope Francis came to Egypt on Friday for a historic visit to the Arab and Muslim majority nation aimed at presenting a united Christian-Muslim front to repudiate violence committed in God's name. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

CAIRO (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt (all times local):

5 p.m.

Pope Francis has left Egypt at the end of a historic, two-day visit defined by calls for Christian-Muslim unity against religious militancy.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi saw the Catholic pontiff off at Cairo Airport on Saturday.

The visit was partially designed to comfort Egypt’s minority Christians following a spate of deadly attacks since December against their churches.

He also attended an international peace conference organized by Al-Azhar, the world’s foremost seat of Sunni Islamic learning.

Earlier on Saturday, the pope led an out-door Mass at a military-run stadium attended by some 15,000 Catholic Egyptians.


4 p.m.

Pope Francis is telling Egypt’s Catholic priests to stop complaining about the challenges they face and instead work for harmony and dialogue.

Francis met with priests, nuns and seminarians at the Roman Catholic National Seminary in Cairo’s leafy suburb of al-Maadi Saturday in the final stop of his quick two-day visit to Egypt. Earlier, he celebrated Mass for the Catholic community, which numbers about 250,000 people among Egypt’s population of 92 million.

In his remarks to the clergy, Francis urged them to avoid “temptations” that he frequently rails against among priests: the temptation to complain all the time, to gossip and think priests are better than others.

Rather, Francis urged them to lead their flocks and not be dragged down by pessimism and disappointment.

He said: “Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, amid many prophets of destruction and condemnation, and so many negative and despairing voices, may you be a positive force.”

He said: “May you be sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony.”


3:45 p.m.

Pope Francis is visiting a Catholic seminary college in a Cairo suburb, where he is addressing hundreds of priests, nuns, seminary students and ordinary Catholics in the last stop of his two-day visit to Egypt.

The Pope on Saturday entered the facility in the leafy suburb of Maadi in an open-topped golf cart, waving to the hundreds of people gathered to greet him and offering his blessings to small children hoisted forward by their parents.

The catholic pontiff earlier Saturday led Mass held at a military-run stadium in another Cairo suburb with about 15,000 people in attendance.

Catholics are a tiny minority of Egypt’s estimated 9 million Christians, the vast majority of whom are Orthodox.

The pope will directly head to the airport from the seminary to fly.


12:05 p.m.

Pope Francis is leaving a military run stadium in Cairo where he led Mass for some 15,000 Egyptian Catholics on the second and final day of a historic visit to Egypt, where Christians have been targeted by Islamic militants.

The Mass was conducted in Latin, Italian and Arabic amid scenes of jubilation and tight security, with police out in force and helicopters hovering over the site.

Members of the congregation waved Holy See and Egyptian flags and swayed to the music of hymns.

Children in ancient Egyptian costumes lined up in front of the makeshift altar in the middle of the grass pitch.

The Pope’s visit to mainly Muslim Egypt is meant in part to comfort Egypt’s Christians following a spate of deadly attacks against them by Islamic militants.


10:55 a.m.

Pope Francis is urging Egypt’s tiny Catholic community to be good and merciful to their fellow Egyptians, saying “the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!”

Francis made the comments during Mass on Saturday at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo on the second and final day of his quick trip to Egypt. On Friday, he comforted Egypt’s Christian community after a spate of attacks by Islamic militants, and demanded that Muslim leaders renounce religious fanaticism that leads to violence.

Francis offered a more pastoral tone Saturday in meeting with his own Catholic flock, who number around 250,000. In his homily, he urged them to not be hypocritical in their faith.

He said: “God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!”


10:10 a.m.

Pope Francis is leading Mass at a military-run stadium in Cairo with at least 10,000 Egyptian Catholics in attendance amid tight security, including helicopters hovering over the suburban facility.

The Saturday Mass is being held on the second and final day of a historic visit to Egypt by the Catholic pontiff, who came to the Muslim majority Arab nation to forge a united Christian-Muslim front against religious militancy and lift the spirits of Egypt’s Christians after a spate of deadly attacks against their churches in December and earlier this month.

The atmosphere at the June 30 stadium was cheerful, with members of the congregation swaying to hymns sung by church choruses and waving Egyptian and Vatican flags. Others held yellow balloons, the color of the Vatican flag.


9:40 a.m.

Pope Francis has arrived at a military run stadium in an eastern Cairo suburb to lead Mass on his second day of a historic visit to Egypt.

The Catholic pontiff arrived in a simple blue Fiat, with his window rolled down, a contrast to the tight security in place for his two-day visit.

Organizers say some 25,000 Egyptian Catholics are attending the Mass. Many of them held yellow balloons, the color of the Vatican’s flag.

Others waved the yellow-and-white Vatican flags as he rode in an open-roofed golf cart around the stadium after his arrival.

The pope’s visit is primarily aimed at forging a united Christian-Islamic front against religious militancy.

Catholics are a tiny minority of Egypt’s estimated nine million Christians, who are mostly Orthodox.


9 a.m.

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

Both uniformed and plain-clothed police were stationed every meter (yard) or so along Francis’ motorcade route on Saturday, and cars and taxis were prevented from stopping. At the stadium, police used metal detectors to check vehicles for explosives. Others stood guard, some on rooftops, their faces covered.

Francis decided to forego the bullet-proof “popemobile” that his predecessors used on foreign trips and drove through Cairo in a simple Fiat. Once in the stadium he plans to greet the crowd in an open golf cart, a reflection of his desire to be close to his flock.

The Air Defense Stadium is part of the defense ministry’s sports village.


7:30 a.m.

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for Egypt’s tiny Catholic community and meet with its priests and seminarians before returning to Rome.

Local media reports say at least 25,000 are expected at Saturday’s Mass in Cairo, which comes on the second day of Francis’ two-day trip to the Arab world’s most populous country

Francis on Friday urged Egypt’s Muslim leaders teach a rejection of violence in God’s name during the delicate visit and he strongly backed its uncompromising crackdown on political Islam and militancy.

His main event was 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. He also met with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.