THE LEVANT EXCLUSIVE – Holy See spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed this Saturday that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will meet with the Pope on Monday on what will be Egypt’s president first visit to the Vatican in eight years.
The Vatican also confirmed that President al-Sisi will be accompanied by a ministerial delegation composed of Foreign Minister Sameh Choukri and three other high ranking state officials.
Al-Sisi will also meet withItalian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome at 1800 GMT, Renzi’s office said.
Sisi, who led the coup last year that ousted elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, hopes to strengthen Egypt’s ties with the Holy See, according to diplomatic sources cited by religious news agency I.Media.
At such a time when sectarian tensions have plagued Egypt and the broader region, diplomatic sources have stressed thatthe talks are likely to address the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Sunni Islam’s main theological centre, the famed Al-Azhar University which fell out with the Vatican in 2011.
Al-Azhar broke off relations after Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI said not enough was being done to prevent the persecution of Christians in remarks perceived by some to be offensive to Islam.
Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, make up some 10% of Egypt’s 86 million population.