violence in name of religion is great offence to God
The Holy Father's Jubilee pilgrimage to Mount Sinai began on Thursday
afternoon, 24 February, with arrival ceremonies at Cairo's international
airport. On hand to welcome the Pope were President Hosni Mubarak, Patriarch
Stephanos II Ghattas, CM. of the Coptic Catholic Church, Grand Sheikh Mohammed
Sayed Tantawi, and other dignitaries of Church and State. After being greeted by
President Mubarak, the Holy Father gave the following address in English.
Your Beatitude Patriarch Stephanos,
Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi,
Dear People of Egypt,
As-salamu alaikum—Peace be with you!
1. For many years I have been looking forward to celebrating the 2,000th
anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ by visiting and praying at the places
specially linked to God's interventions in history. My Jubilee pilgrimage
brings me today to Egypt. Thank you, Mr President, for making it possible
for me to come here and to go to where God revealed his name to Moses and gave
his Law as a sign of his great mercy and kindness towards his creatures. I
greatly appreciate your kind words of welcome.
This is the land of a 5,000-year-old civilization known throughout the world
for its monuments and for its knowledge of mathematics and astronomy. This is
the land where different cultures met and mingled, making Egypt famous for its
wisdom and learning.
2. In Christian times, the city of Alexandria—where the Church was
established by the disciple of Peter and Paul, the Evangelist Mark—nurtured
renowned ecclesiastical writers like Clement and Origen, and great Fathers of
the Church such as Athanasius and Cyril. The fame of St Catherine of Alexandria
fives on in Christian devotion and in the name of many. churches in all parts of
the world. Egypt, with Sts Anthony and Pachomius, was the birthplace of
monasticism, which has played an essential part in preserving the spiritual and
cultural traditions of the Church.
The advent of Islam brought splendours of art and learning which have had a
determining influence on the Arab world and on Africa. The people of Egypt have
for centuries pursued the ideal of national unity. Differences of religion were
never barriers, but a form of mutual enrichment in the service of the one
national community. I well remember the words of Pope Shenouda III: "Egypt
is not the native land in which we live, but the native land which lives in
3. The unity and harmony of the nation are a precious value which all
citizens should cherish, and which political and religious leaders must
continually promote in justice and respect for the rights of all. Mr President,
your own commitment to peace at home and throughout the Middle East is well
known. You have been instrumental in advancing the peace process in the region.
All reasonable men and women appreciate the efforts made so far, and hope that
goodwill and justice will prevail, so that all the peoples of this unique area
of the world will see their rights respected and their legitimate aspirations
My visit to St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai will be a
moment of intense prayer for peace and for interreligious harmony. To do harm,
to promote violence and conflict in the name of religion is a terrible
contradiction and a great offence against God. But past and present history give
us many examples of such a misuse of religion. We must all work to strengthen
the growing commitment to interreligious dialogue, a great sign of hope for the
peoples of the world.
As-salamu 'alaikum—Peace be with you!
This is my greeting to you all. This is the prayer I offer up for Egypt and
all her people.
May the Most High God bless your land with harmony, peace and