CWN - Pope Francis said that Christians and Muslims together must promote “civility of encounter” as the only viable alternative to “the incivility of conflict,” in a speech to an inter-religious peace conference hosted by Al Azhar University in Cairo.

Earlier in the day, the Pope had told Egypt’s political leaders that their country “has a unique role to play in the Middle East” and in the quest for a stable peace there. And later, addressing Coptic Christians, the Holy Father said that “there is no time to lose” in the quest for Christian unity, and assured embattled Egyptian Christians that “your sufferings are our sufferings.”

The Pope was greeted to Al Azhar University by the institution’s leader, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, who opened the peace conference by asking for a minute of silent prayer for the victims of terrorism. The Islamic cleric went on to denounce violence, insisting that Islam is a religion of peace.

Pope Francis opened and closed his own address—which was frequently interrupted by applause—with the traditional Arabic greeting: “As salaamu alaykum“ (Peace be with you). He began his remarks by recalling the history of Egypt as an ancient cultural center, and said that the program of dialogue between the Vatican and Al Azhar University continues the heritage of respectful interaction between faiths that has been a characteristic of Egypt’s history.

That attitude of respect is a hallmark of faith, the Pope insisted. Violence, he said, “is the negation of every authentic religious expression.” He said that religious leaders should “unmask evil,” and at the same time address the causes of violence, by working to end poverty, eliminate the arms trade, and counteract the divisive influences of populism. “May Saint Francis of Assisi, who eight centuries ago came to Egypt and met Sultan Malik al Kamil, intercede for this intention,” he said.

Pope Francis concluded his address at Al Azhar by saying: "As religious leaders, we are called, therefore, to unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity and is based more on the “absolutizing” of selfishness than on authentic openness to the Absolute. We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God: Holy is his name, he is the God of peace, God salaam."

Later, in his meeting with Coptic Christians, the Pope recalled the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Coptic Pope Shenouda III in May 1973, which ended centuries of separation. He said that all Christians should speak together “the common language of charity,” and not “take refuge behind the pretext of differing interpretations.”

Noting that the Christian world was united this year in the celebration of Easter on the same date, the Pope added that Christians are also drawn together by the shared witness of suffering for the faith and the “ecumenism of blood.”


Teachings of Christ

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." (Matthew 5:11 ESV)

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)


Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, * and the revelation of an eternal mystery: * The Son of God becomes the Son of a Virgin, * and Gabriel announces the good news of grace. * Therefore, let us also cry with him to the Mother of God: * "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

To you, O Mother of God, our leader and defender, * we, your servants, delivered from calamity, offer hymns of victory and thanksgiving. * So you, who have invincible might, * set us free from every peril * that we may cry to you: * "Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!" (Kontakion, Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you." (Proverbs 3:28 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues, for it is not found perfect in them. Its perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ.

St. Mark the Ascetic