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The BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo
"Pope needs to tread carefully here"
 real 28k

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"When the Pope finally appeared the crowds were ecstatic. A few wept with emotion."
 real 28k

The BBC's Frank Gardner
Pope John Paul has tried hard to steer clear of any political controversy."
 real 28k

Friday, 25 February, 2000, 13:19 GMT
Pope calls for religious freedom

Pope John Pual in Cairo
People chanted: "Pope John Paul II, we love you."

The Pope has called for religious tolerance as he celebrated the first mass of his unprecedented visit to Egypt.

Some 20,000 worshippers - including some Muslims - attended the service in a Cairo Sports Hall.

Pope John Paul II called for dialogue and respect among the faiths.

I have learned with deep pain that in Nigeria tensions have caused many deaths

The Pope in Cairo
"It will also promote respect for sensitivities of each community, as well as for their specific way of expressing faith in Christ and celebrating the sacraments," he added.

Twenty-two people died in violence between Christians and Muslims in Egypt last month.

A large screen in the enclosed stadium displayed the words: "John Paul II, we love you," as the visibly shaky 79-year-old Pontiff struggled with his homily.

Pope John Paul II in Cairo The mass was broadcast in 3 languages
Extending his sermon beyond Egypt, the Pope expressed his grief about the outbreak of Christian-Muslim violence in the Nigerian city of Kaduna, where more than 200 people are now believed to have been killed.

"I have learned with deep pain that in Nigeria tensions have caused many deaths," he said.

All brothers

The visit to Egypt - the first ever by a Roman Catholic Pope - has been well received by most people in this predominantly Muslim country of some 64 million people.

A Catholic priest gives commuinio to a young girl 20,000 people attended the mass
Christians are estimated to be about 6 million, with just about 200,000 being followers of the Catholic faith and the vast majority being Orthodox Coptic believers.

"We're all people of faith. We're all brothers and we come here to support each other," said one of Egypt's famous actresses, a Muslim, known simply as Youssra.

Unprecedented mass

The BBC Middle East correspondent, Frank Gardner, says the mass, which was broadcast in French, Arabic, and the ancient language of Coptic, is unprecedented.

Pope at mass in cairo The Pope will visit the place where Moses is believed to have met God
Instead of the worshippers being crammed into a nearby cathedral which holds only 2,000 people, the government of President Hosni Mubarak gave the go-ahead for the mass to be celebrated in the vast sports facility.

The Pope concludes his visit to Egypt on Saturday with a visit to the St Catherine's Greek Orthodox Monastery, located some 400 kilometres away from Cairo, in the Sinai desert.

The 1,600-year-old monastery is built on the spot where many believe Moses was given the Ten Commandments by God.

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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Pope pleads for harmony between faiths
24 Feb 00 |  World
In pictures: The Pope in Egypt
23 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Who are Egypt's Christians?
09 Jan 00 |  Middle East
'Hand-outs' for religious violence victims
04 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Funerals for victims of Egypt clashes
08 Jan 00 |  Middle East
More arrests after Egypt clashes

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