Security tight as pope celebrates open-air Mass in Cairo

Pope Francis had directed a message to Egyptians in a video ahead of his visit, saying that the "world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land".

The visit was a diplomatic breakthrough for the Vatican after el-Tayeb severed relations with Rome in 2011, when Pope Benedict XVI demanded Egypt better protect its Christian minority following a New Year's Eve church bombing that killed over 20 people.

Trump said he believes China's president, Xi Jinping, has been putting pressure on North Korea over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

"Any other fanaticism does not come from God and does not please him", he said at the mass attended by tens of thousands of people at Cairo's Air Defence Stadium.

"But I would say, Mr President, please see to it there is no war, because my region will suffer immensely".

In answer to a question about North Korean missile tests and military and diplomatic moves by the US, Francis said the United Nations should re-assert its leadership because it had become "too watered down".

Earlier during the Pope's visit, he met with Pope Tawadros II in Saint Mark's Coptic Cathedral, which was bombed last December. Blood on one of the church walls remains unwashed and is adorned by pictures of the 30, mostly women, victims of that attack.

They also signed a joint declaration pledging to "strive for serenity and concord through a peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims".

The pope was greeted at the stadium with cheers and a flurry of balloons and he waved at the crowds from an open top golf cart to the sound of Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus and an Italian hymn, "Laudato' Si".

Francis's visit to Egypt follows the bombings of three Egyptian churches in recent months that have killed dozens of worshipers.

When asked if he wished he had gone with them, too, the pope said, "Ah, yes".

"How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas about God, a god created in the image and likeness of man", he said.

After the mass, the pope travelled to a seminary in the city where he urged his audience to promote dialogue.

"It is our duty to unmask the peddlers of illusions about the afterlife, those who preach hatred in order to rob simple people of their present life", the pontiff said in his second speech of the day, to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi.

Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, did make a few subtle criticisms, including a demand for "unconditional respect for inalienable human rights such as equality among all citizens, religious freedom and freedom of expression, without any distinction".

As defense minister, El-Sissi had led the military ouster of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president whose one-year rule proved divisive. The pope himself declined the use of an armored limousine, preferring instead to travel in an ordinary Fiat vehicle to be closer to people.

"Peace alone... is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name", Francis said.

"Demagogic forms of populism are on the rise".

Up to 10 percent of Egypt's population is Christian, and the Muslim population is around 90 percent.

Pope Francis said his contention that the Third World War already is underway and is being fought "piecemeal" also can be seen in places where there are internal conflicts like in the Middle East, Yemen and parts of Africa. Most of Egypt's Christians are Coptic Orthodox with barely 200,000 members of Churches within the Roman Catholic fold.

  • Leroy Wright