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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"He called again for unity between the churches"
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Frank Gardner at Mount Sinai
"The Pope prayed at one of the most sacred places of Christians, Muslims and Jews alike"
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Saturday, 26 February, 2000, 11:33 GMT
Pope appeals for dialogue

The Pope was greeted by the monastery's Archbishop Damianos

Pope John Paul II has issued an appeal for dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims at the climax of his first pilgrimage to Egypt.

He made the appeal at Mount Sinai, a site holy to all three religions and where God is said to have spoken to Moses from a burning bush to give him the Ten Commandments.

The Pope told hundreds of followers outside the Monastery of St Catherine: "The wind which still today blows from Sinai reminds us that God wants to be honoured in and through the growth of his creatures.

Monastery facts
Situated at more than 5,000ft
Constructed by Byzantine emperor Justinian in 527
Said to contain remains of St Catherine of Alexandria
Houses some of Christianity's most significant icons and manuscripts
"In this sense, that wind carries an insistent invitation to dialogue between the followers of the great monotheistic religions in their service of the human family."

The Pope also achieved a lifelong ambition by praying at Mount Sinai. He knelt down at a church altar inside St Catherine's monastery and prayed, surrounded by Greek Orthodox monks and Roman Catholic clerics.

However he has not been allowed to hold mass inside the monastery walls because of an ancient rift between the Orthodox and Catholic churches.

Instead, he was leading prayers at a gathering outside the monastery.

Hundreds of Egyptian and Sudanese Roman Catholics had been gathering since early morning in the Garden of Olives to witness the Pope's pilgrimage.

Millennium tour

St Catherine's, 250 km south-east of Egypt's capital Cairo, is the first of the great biblical sites on the pontiff's itinerary, as he tours the Middle East to mark the start of the new millennium.

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

There are estimated to be six million Christians, with just 200,000 being followers of the Catholic faith and the vast majority being Orthodox Coptic believers.

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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
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