Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad meets Coptic Pope Tawadros II at the main cathedral in Cairo Monday evening. Image Credit: Screenshot

Cairo: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman visited the main Orthodox cathedral in Cairo on Sunday evening, the first by a senior Saudi official in a fresh sign of openness by the kingdom’s leaders.

The 32-year-old heir apparent is credited with introducing major changes in Saudi Arabia since his appointment last June.

Mohammad was welcomed at the cathedral in the Cairo district of Abbasiya by head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II.

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After the 20-minute meeting, Tawadros II said that the Saudi crown prince invited him to visit the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (left) sits under a painting of Jesus Christ in Cairo, Egypt while visiting the head of the Coptic church, Tawadros II. — Twitter/@thestevennabil

The top cleric praised recent reforms in Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has witnessed a great development in the recent period. This will help rout violence and extremism,” added the Coptic pope.

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Mohammad’s visit to the cathedral, the seat of the Coptic pope, drew praise in Egypt where Christians make up around 10 per cent of its population of nearly 95 million.

“The meeting emphasizes values of religious tolerance and cordiality between Egyptians and their Saudi brothers,” said spokesman for the Coptic Church Boulis Halim.

“The visit also aims at boosting bonds between Saudi Arabia and the Coptic Church,” he added.

Prominent Egyptian  lawmaker Mustafa Bakri described Prince Mohammad’s visit to the Cathedral as a turning point in Saudi relations with Christians.

“It is the first visit by a Saudi official to the cathedral,” Bakri said in a tweet.

Message of tolerance

“It sends a message to the world emphasizing the value of tolerance that Prince Mohammad constantly espouses.”

In April 2017, King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz conferred with the Coptic pope at a Cairo hotel where the Saudi monarch was staying during an official visit to Egypt.

Earlier Monday, the Saudi heir apparent visited Al Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious centre of learning, where he conferred with Grand Imam Ahmad Al Tayeb.

Shaikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb (R), the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, welcoming Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman during a visit to the prestigious Sunni institution in Cairo. — AFP

Mohammad arrived in Egypt on Sunday for a three-day visit, at the start of his first foreign trip since becoming the crown prince.