January 21-23, 2000
volume 11, no. 15
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Visit to Mount Sinai of Great Importance for Country's Stability
    VATICAN CITY, JAN 20 (ZENIT).- This morning the Vatican Press Office published the program of John Paul II's pilgrimage to Mount Sinai from February 24-26, in the context of his Jubilee pilgrimage "to places connected with the history of salvation."

    After postponing the stage of Ur of the Chaldeans in Iraq, Abraham's birthplace, at the express request of the Baghdad regime, the itinerary of this pontifical pilgrimage will begin in the Sinai, where Moses was revealed the name of God and given the Tablets of the Law.

    On February 26, the Pope will visit the Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine, which is in the Sinai region, at the foot of Mount Horeb. While there, he will preside over the celebration of the Word in the garden of olives, the very place where tradition locates the burning bush that served the Lord to reveal himself to Moses: "I am Who am." This celebration is of great ecumenical importance, as the Monastery is home to a community of Greek Orthodox monks, who are very enthusiastic about the Pope's arrival.

    Before reaching Sinai, the Holy Father will visit Cairo on February 24 in the afternoon. The present moment has significant connotations for this papal visit. At present in the area of the Upper Nile, groups of Muslim fundamentalists are carrying out a harsh repression of the Coptic Christian minority. As is the case in other Arab countries, Egypt is under a fundamentalist threat: the deteriorating economic situation has caused the spread of ideas contrary to the Westernization of the country and the secularism of the State. Violent groups have generalized their attacks against members of the foreign community, Western economic interests, tourists and even personalities of Egyptian public life, which has caused the government to react with massive arrests, executions of fundamentalist leaders and military occupation of the areas dominated by them.

    In the midst of this unhappy panorama, there are two positive signs in the area of foreign relations. The first and most important is the role of Egyptian diplomacy in the peace process between Israel and Palestine, which has returned Egypt to leadership of the Arab world.

    Within this context, the meeting of the Pope with the Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of Al Azhar acquires great significance. The Sheik is the most important Sunni personality and one of the most prestigious custodians of Islamic thought. Other important moments in the papal visit to Cairo include a private meeting with President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, and a visit with Shenouda III, leader of the Coptic Orthodox.

    On February 25, the Pope will celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt and participate in an ecumenical meeting in the inter-ritual Major Seminary of St. Leo the Great.

    Of the 66 million inhabitants of Egypt, about 1% are Catholics and 4.8% Orthodox. The overwhelming majority are Muslims.

    The Pope's pilgrimage to Sinai will continue with the stage in the Holy Land, which will take place at the end of March. At that time, the Holy Father will visit Mount Nebo in Jordan from where Moses glimpsed the Promised Land before his death. ZE00012004


January 21-23, 2000
volume 11, no. 15

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