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Pope Francis to join UAE council at Cairo peace conference

ABU DHABI // Pope Francis will join hundreds of religious and political leaders, including the UAE’s Muslim Council of Elders, this week for a peace conference in Egypt.

Among the topics to be addressed at Al Azhar’s International Peace Conference, starting in Cairo on Thursday, are misinterpretation of religious text and the culture of peace in religion.

Global peace and how poverty, illness and exploitation affect it will also be discussed.

More than 300 Muslim, Christian and political scholars and leaders were invited to the two-day event by Dr Ahmed Al Tayyib, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the global seat of Sunni Muslim learning, and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders.

Pope Francis’s visit to Egypt, the first by a modern-day Roman Catholic leader since Pope John Paul II in 2000, comes after attacks on Coptic churches killed at least 47 on Palm Sunday.

The pope will be travelling under the banner “Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace” on his visit on Friday and Saturday.

He will celebrate mass for Catholics in Cairo, meet Catholic and Orthodox bishops and priests, and give a speech with Dr Al Tayyib at the conference.

The pope will meet Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

It is his second trip to the Middle East, after visiting Jordan, Palestine and Israel in 2014.

Ahead of the conference, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, received Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna of Sebastia, in Jerusalem, yesterday at the Sea Palace.

They discussed ways to encourage peace, coexistence and respect for religion.

The Muslim Council of Elders said that the Cairo event would be a call to followers of different faiths to trust each other, and work as one to denounce extremism and promote peace.

“This conference will send a message to the whole world that all religious figures and representatives of religions gathered in Al Azhar are on common terms with regard to the call for global peace among religious leaders and the whole human community,” it said.

A similar message was shared in February when the council, with Al Azhar, gathered Muslim scholars and Christian leaders from 50 countries for a two-day conference in Cairo.

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council, will give a speech on Thursday at the conference opening. Other speakers include Amr Moussa, former secretary general of the Arab League, Dr Mostafa Hegazi, former Egyptian presidential adviser, Dr Mohammed Al Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League, and Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.

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The National