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Vatican confirms papal trip to Egypt under consideration

Pope Francis arriving in Poland in 2016 (AP)

The Vatican has confirming a papal trip to Egypt is under consideration but that no dates or itinerary have been finalised.

The statement on Saturday by spokesman Greg Burke came after Italy’s state-run RAI reported Francis would visit Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the leading centre of learning of Sunni Islam, on May 20-21.

The Vatican and Al-Azhar recently restored relations that the Cairo institute severed in 2011 to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict XVI in 2011 had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year’s bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people. Since then, Islamic attacks on Christians in the region have only increased, but the Vatican and Al-Azhar nevertheless sought to rekindle ties.

Last May, Al-Azhar’s grand imam, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, visited Francis.