Egyptian Muslim, Christian lawmakers welcome Pope

Indo Asian News Service

Cairo, April 28 (IANS/AKI) Over 100 Egyptian MPs, including Muslims and Christians, greeted Pope Francis at Cairo's international airport on Friday at the start of his two-day visit.

Christian MP Evelin Matta thanked Francis for going ahead with his trip despite the deadly attacks on Christian churches in Egypt that killed 47 people earlier this month.

"Many people expected the pontiff to cancel his visit due to the security situation and given the recent attacks on the churches in Alexandria and Tanta," said Matta.

The landmark visit by the Pope - the second by the head of the Catholic Church after John Paul II's in 2000 - comes amid a massive security lockdown in Egypt, where a three-month state of emergency is in place.

Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi declared the state of Emergency after the April 9 blasts at churches in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria and a deadly attack on police at the entrance to the famed Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai on April 19.

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed the Palm Sunday and the monastery attacks and has vowed further attacks against Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, which makes up 10 percent of the population.