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Welcome placards for Pope Francis up in Cairo ahead of visit

IANS | Cairo |

Huge placards welcoming Pope Francis in English and Arabic have been erected along Cairo's main streets ahead of his landmark visit here on Friday and Saturday.

The placards show Francis dressed in white waving with his right hand against a backdrop of the Pyramids at Giza with a dove, an Islamic crescent and a Christian cross visible in the sky.

The logo chosen by Egypt's patriarchs and Coptic bishops for the visit – 'Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace' is written right-hand side of the placard.

The placards have been plastered along the road to the airport where Francis will arrive from Rome on Saturday afternoon.

"Please pray for my journey tomorrow as a pilgrim of peace to Egypt," Francis tweeted on Thursday.

The visit comes amid a security lockdown after blasts at two Christian churches in Egypt that killed 47 people on April 9, claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, and an attack on police the entrance to the famed Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai on April 19 that was also claimed by IS.

While deploring extremist attacks against Christians, Pope Francis said he is travelling to Egypt as a messenger of peace at a time when the world is "torn by blind violence".

He will meet Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and visit the al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of learning in Sunni Islam – the centre-point of his trip, where he will meet privately with Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, and address an international peace conference.

During his visit – the second by a pontiff to Egypt after John Paul II's in 2000 – Francis will also meet Coptic Pope Tawadros II and members of Egypt's tiny Catholic and other Christian minorities.