Source: Wikimedia

Pope Francis will be visiting Egypt on 28-29 April, the Vatican announced on Saturday.

According to TIME, Egypt's presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said that the visit comes in response to an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who met Francis when he visited the Vatican in late 2014.

Youssef also added that the pope will meet with Egypt's top Muslim Cleric, the imam of the Al-Azhar mosque, Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayyib, as well as  with Catholic bishops in Egypt and Coptic Orthodox church leader Pope Tawadros II.

The visit comes after months of steady improvements in relations that were previously "derailed" under Benedict XVI due to arguments over a 2006 speech where he was accused of linking Islam to violence, and further comments in 2011 that saw him condemn "an attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria that Al-Azhar denounced as meddling in Egypt's affairs," according to Middle East Eye.

The leading themes of Pope Francis's pontificate have been tolerance, interfaith and reconciliation between various sects and religions and with his visit to Egypt later next month he is set to become the second Roman Catholic pope to visit the country, following John Paul II's visit in 2000.

Turbulent times for Egypt's Coptic Community

The pope's planned visit to Egypt comes in a year that has been difficult for Egypt's Christian Coptic community.

On December 11, 2016, a suicide bomb attack claimed by ISIS (Daesh) targeted the Coptic church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and left twenty nine people dead.

And in the past month the Coptic community of Al Arish in the northern Sinai peninsula has also been targeted by ISIS.

According to the New York Times a series of attacks by gunmen in the area left at least 7 people dead and many Christian families have been forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge in neighboring areas.

Other possible visits to the Arab world

In the past month it has been speculated that the pope will be planning a possible visit to Lebanon after Lebanon's president Michel Aoun visited the Vatican last week.

The pope has also received other invitations to the Arab world, including that of Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance in the UAE.

Qasimi handed over an invite from President Sheikh Khalifa when she headed a delegation visiting the Vatican in the summer of 2016.