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POPE EXHORTS EGYPTIAN CATHOLICS

VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- During a Mass celebrated in a Cairo sports stadium, Pope John Paul II encouraged the Catholics of Egypt to fulfill their responsibilities within society, and to continue the important work of the Church in Egypt.

In his homily during the February 25 ceremony, the Holy Father paid homage to the work of the Egyptian Church, especially in the realm of education. He continued by saying that "it is the duty of all citizens to participate actively, in the spirit of solidarity, in social improvement, the building of peace between communities, and the honest contribution to the common good.

In his remarks to the congregation-- which included a large number of young people educated at Catholic schools-- the Pontiff said: "Your presence here around Peter's successor is a sign of the unity of the Church, of which Christ is the head." He added that this unity allows wide diversity in liturgical practices-- a reference to the Coptic and Byzantine elements which were incorporated into the liturgical celebration.

The Mass was conducted under conditions of strict security. The 15,000 people who attended the ceremony were carefully screened, and 3,000 seats near the altar were deliberately left vacant in order to ease security concerns.

At the conclusion of the service, the Pope offered special words of welcome to a group of Sudanese Christians who had traveled to Cairo for the ceremony. "I pray for you every day," he said.

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