Pope Foregoes Popemobile in Historic Egypt Visit

Security was tight for open-air Cairo mass
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 29, 2017 5:32 AM CDT
Pope Celebrates Open-Air Mass in Egypt
The faithful cheer as Pope Francis celebrates Mass for Egypt's tiny Catholic community, at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo, Saturday, April 29, 2017.   (Gregorio Borgia)

Military helicopters flew overhead and police fanned out in force Saturday as Pope Francis celebrated an open-air Mass for Egypt's tiny Catholic community on the second and final day of a visit aimed at comforting Christians following a series of attacks by Islamic militants. Despite the security concerns, Francis zoomed around the Cairo sports stadium in an open-topped golf cart before the start of Mass, the AP reports. The crowd cheered him wildly, waiving Egyptian and Holy See flags and swaying to hymns sung by church choirs. The defense ministry's stadium has a capacity of 25,000, but it was less than half-full, a reflection that Catholics represent less than 1% of Egypt's 92 million people.

In his homily, Francis urged them to be good and merciful to their fellow Egyptians, saying "the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!" Security was exceptionally tight around the stadium and in the upscale neighborhood where Francis spent the night, with police stationed every yard or so along his motorcade route. But Francis decided to forego the bullet-proof "popemobile" that his predecessors used on foreign trips and drove through Cairo in a simple Fiat, his window rolled down. His gestures sent a defiant message to ISIS, whose local affiliate in Egypt has vowed to go after Egypt's Christians to punish them for their support of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (More Pope Francis stories.)

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