Pope Francis is refusing an armored car in Egypt
Here are some of the most compelling storylines to follow as His Holiness makes his way to Egypt for a short but important trip.
— Pope Francis is shunning an armored limousine in favor of an ordinary car. The practice has endured the humble pontiff to the locals when he travels, but this time especially, that decision is fraught with risk. The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church — Pope Tawadros II — barely escaped Palm Sunday attacks that were claimed by the Islamic State, Reuters reported.
Make no mistake — Pope Francis is a prime ISIS target. And Vatican officials will surely breathe a little easier when he’s back on the plane to Rome.
— Francis’ visit is extremely critical for non-Catholics. While other Christians generally don’t get caught up in the fervor of a papal trip, Pope Francis’ visit to a Coptic cathedral that came under attack last year gives Egypt’s desperate Christian population much-needed international attention. The rise of ISIS has given way to a dire situation for many Christians in the Middle East.
— Francis is attempting to clean up Benedict’s mess and repair relations with moderate Muslims. Comments made by Pope Benedict during his papacy did some damage to Catholic-Muslim relations. The Vatican has worked to restore ties with the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar center, the world’s most influential center of Sunni Islamic theology and learning, Reuters reported. Better relations with moderate Muslims could make life easier for Christians in Egypt.
— Naturally, backlash from some conservative Catholics is mounting. The Holy Father is being criticized by some Catholics for meeting Muslim leaders after a series of deadly attacks against Christians in Egypt. As Reuters notes, some in the Catholic Church see a “war of religion” and believe that Francis is going behind enemy lines.