Pope Francis, the pontifex maximus, went to Cairo on the latest and perhaps most important mission of his four years as Bishop of Rome to try to “build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice, and humanity.”
Those were the very words he used in a video message to the people of Egypt just days before his brief, Friday-Saturday visit to the nation’s capital.
The pope described Egypt as “the cradle of civilization… where God, benevolent and merciful, the almighty and one God, made his voice heard.” He said he was going to a “land where patriarchs and prophets lived” as a “friend” and a “messenger of peace.”
Francis also said his mission had a concrete goal: to offer “comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world.”
It was a tall order.
Because of the murderous attacks that Islamic fanatics have brutally rained down on Christians in the region, most recently on Palm Sunday, the visit was seen as dangerous and complicated. Naturally, because of this it captured the attention of media organizations and political leaders around the globe.
The pope did nothing less than try to help resolve the most serious and illusive geopolitical conundrum since the Second World War and the horrific events that were part of it.
Ever since his election Francis has insisted that the world is currently involved in World War III. He’s argued that this inter-continental conflict is being waged “piecemeal” on various parts of the planet. And there can be no denying that religion (or as the pope would say, the abuse of religion) is being used to justify much of the slaughter.
And so, as the most prominent religious leader on earth, the pope continues to feel a clear responsibility to make himself vulnerable (just as Jesus did) in an effort to reconcile our fractured and manipulated humanity.