Papal visit to Islam

Egypt: Ecumenical outreach to other faiths and denominations is necessary common sense

February 26, 2000

THE VISIT of Pope John Paul II to Egypt symbolizes the need for Islam and Christendom to coexist. The world is too small for them not to do so.

Yet communal strife between members of the two great faiths flares in Egypt, other Arab countries, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, the Russian Caucasus, Indonesia, even northern Nigeria.

This is the first visit of a pontiff to Egypt. Despite his personal agenda of visiting such Biblical sites as Mount Sinai, the world sees a healing, ecumenical mission to the modern world.

Not only between the Catholic Church and Islam. The pope has been engaged in seeking better relations with other Christian denominations. On this trip, he meets another pope, Shenouda III of the Coptic Church, as well as a leading Islamic scholar, Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi.

Egypt is comparatively easy for such a mission. It has a secular, military government that sees itself as protector of its Islamic majority as well as its Coptic minority. A papal visit to a country with a regime billing itself as Islamic might be more difficult to achieve. But it would be a good thing.

The age of the clash of civilizations is over. The pope may not be a techie in the Internet sense. But he understands better than most how small the globe is, and in what close proximity its people live.

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