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‘As-Salaam Alaikum,’ says Pope Francis at Cairo mass

CAIRO: Pope Francis during a mass at a stadium in Egypt Saturday preached a message promoting unity, tolerance and non-violence.

Pope started his Mass with the “As-Salaam Alaikum,” the traditional Muslim greeting in Arabic that means “Peace be upon you,” and ended it with “al-Masih qam! Bi-l-haqiqa qam! (Christ is risen! He is truly risen),” said while addressing the crowd of about 15,000 people at Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium.

Speaking at the heart of Sunni Islam scholarship, Pope stressed the importance of unity between Muslims and Christians to shape world peace and emphasized the “incompatibility of violence and faith.”

“In order to prevent conflicts and build peace, it is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence,” he said, reported CNN.

Pope was in Egypt on a two-day trip designed to forge Muslim-Christian brotherhood and show solidarity with the country’s persecuted Coptic Christian minority, Efe news reported.

In a speech to a Muslim-Christian conference, the 80-year-old pontiff denounced violence and populism.

“Peace alone… is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name,” Francis said.

He criticised what he called “demagogic forms of populism… on the rise”, saying they were unhelpful to peace.

The mass was held amid strict security measures to try and deter any attacks by Islamist radicals.

The Pope urged people not to be afraid “to love everyone, friends and enemies alike” since the genuine strength and treasure of believers resides in their “love of life”.

Before the mass began, the Pontiff greeted the attendees from a golf cart that went around the stadium, where some 25,000 people came to greet him, according to the Egyptian official news agency MENA.

Pope Francis warned against religious fanaticism and sent a message of tolerance and co-existence as he celebrated a mass at a stadium in Cairo on Saturday.

“God is pleased only by a faith that professes its love for life, for the only fanaticism believers must profess is that of charity,” the Pontiff said.

“Any other fanaticism does not come from God and does not please him,” he said at the mass attended by tens of thousands of people at Cairo’s Air Defence Stadium.

“True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane,” the Pope said.

“It moves our hearts to love everyone without considering the cost, without distinction and without preference,” the Pontiff added.

He insisted in his message of peace that faith “makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome, but a brother or sister to be loved, served and helped”.

–IANS/AFP