During a Mass with Egypt's Catholic leader, Pope Francis prayed for the safety and religious liberty of Middle East Christians.
"Let real guarantees of religious liberty be given to all, together with the rights of Christians to live peacefully in the places where they were born, in the native country they love as citizens of more than 2,000 years, in order that they might contribute as always to the good of all," Pope Francis said during Mass on Monday with Egypt's Coptic Catholic leader Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, theCatholic News Service reported.
Since the 2011 revolution that removed former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's Christian population has faced numerous attacks, including on its holiest church, St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo in April 2013. Anti-Christian violence then intensified following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, after Islamists blamed Christians for their involvement. In mid-August, several dozen Christian homes, businesses, and churches were burned. Egyptian Christians have also faced a recent rise in kidnappings.
During the Mass, Pope Francis prayed for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians amid their ongoing U.S.-brokered negotiations.
"Let us pray with confidence that in the Holy Land and all the Middle East peace might be able to rise from the often recurring and sometimes dramatic breaks in the peace process," the pontiff said.
Pope Francis, who recently met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time, is expected to visit Israel in May 2014.