CAIRO — Pope Francis led a mass of about 250,000 Egyptians on Saturday, telling followers that the only acceptable kind of fanaticism is that of “charity.”
“Any other type of fanaticism does not come from God, and is not pleasing to him,” Francis told tens of thousands of Catholics and Copts at a suburban Cairo stadium. “True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane — it moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost, without distinction and without preference … it makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome but a brother or sister to be loved, served and helped.”
Security was tight at the stadium, with military and police sometimes seeming to outnumber the crows.
Two Egyptian air force Apache helicopters circled the stadium, while cars were checked for explosives, and attendees only admitted with a pass from the Egyptian homeland security agency.
The pope’s message of unity is one of the main themes of a two-day visit to Egypt to promote tolerance, peace and dialogue with Muslims in the Arab’s world’s largest country. The visit also comes after Coptic Christian churches were bombed on Palm Sunday, killing at least 44 people and injuring scores more.
Many in that community were joyful to welcome the pope as he entered the stadium to a show of yellow and white balloons, and a chorus singing “Gloria” as Francis waved to the crowds.
Amer MousSa, former foreign minister and Arab League secretary general – and a Muslim – attended the event and said the mass, in spite of being Catholic, was a show of interfaith understanding.
“The pope recognized the core beliefs of Islam…that coexistence is at the center of Islam,” he said.