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CAIRO, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of St. Mark Diocese said Tuesday the Coptic Orthodox Church has been in Egypt since the 1st century AD.

During a meeting with an Italian delegation of tourists visiting places related to the Holy Family route, the Pope said Christianity is fundamental in Egypt, referring to numerous antiquities including Coptic monasteries.

The first monk in the world is St. Anthony who was Egyptian and the first monastery in the world is in Egypt near the Red Sea, he said.

"We thank God that the route of the Holy Family has been guarded since the 1st Century AD by the Church and recently by the Egyptian government and the Ministry of Tourism," he said.

He welcomed the guests saying "We welcome you today in Egypt and in our hearts. Let's remember the visit by Pope Francis last year when we met together in this hall. It was a visit full of blessings to all of Egypt.

"Four years earlier I visited the Vatican and we are always in touch and pledged to pray for each other every night. We will meet again within a few weeks."

CAIRO, June 18, 2018 (MENA) – Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church Ibrahim Isaac received an Italian delegation, as the first group to tour the stops of the Holy Family's route in Egypt.

During the meeting Sunday, Isaac welcomed the delegation and urged them to tell their families and friends about Egypt.

The 50-member group arrived in Cairo Sunday on a five-day visit that was coordinated by Tourism Ministry and the Italian Catholic Church.

The tour will also take them to some places in Cairo and other monasteries.

The Italian delegation is comprised of churchmen and media figures.

VALENCIA, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The Aquarius charity-run rescue ship arrived in the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday, a week after Italy refused to let it dock with 629 migrants on board.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offered to take the ship in, meaning it had to travel an extra 700 nautical miles after plucking the migrants from unstable boats off the coast of Libya.

There are now 106 migrants on the vessel, after two ships from Italy’s coast guard and navy shared out the passengers to make the long journey safer.

CAIRO, June 17, 2018 (MENA) - Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church Ibrahim Isaac is planned to receive on Sunday an Italian delegation, as the first group to follow up the steps of the route of the Holy Family in Egypt.

Engy Lahzy, the guide to accompany members of the delegation in their visit, said on Saturday that more than 50 people are expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday in a five-day visit. She added that the journey is coordinated between Tourism Ministry and the Italian Catholic Church.

The visit includes visiting some places in Cairo and other monasteries in addition to Pharaonic artifacts, added Lahzy.

The Italian delegation composes of churchmen and media figures.

PARIS, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) - French President Emmanuel Macron sought to defuse tension with Italy after it criticised its refusal to accept more than 600 migrants on board the Aquarius ship earlier this week, telling the Italian leader no offense was meant.

“The French president emphasised that he never said anything meant to offend Italy and the Italian people,” Macron’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

Macron told ministers in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday the Italian government had acted cynically and irresponsibly in its refusal to welcome the Aquarius, according to French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

Macron confirmed the two leaders would meet in Paris for a working lunch on Friday.

ROME, June 13, 2018 (News Wires) - Italy said on Wednesday its decision to shut its ports to hundred of migrants aboard a charity ship was firm, as a clash between Rome and Paris over migrant policy heated up.

“We will not change (our position) on ships belonging to non-governmental organisations,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“Ships belonging to foreign organisations and flying foreign flags cannot dictate Italy’s immigration policy,” said Salvini, who is also head of the anti-immigrant League.

Since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta refused to let them dock, some 629 migrants, including 11 children and seven pregnant women, have been in the central Mediterranean aboard the Aquarius.

Some of the migrants on the overcrowded Aquarius, who are mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were moved onto to two Italian ships from the navy and coastguard and are headed for the port of Valencia, Spain.

The episode, coming a week after the installation of Italy’s new populist government, has heightened tensions within the European Union over migration.

While Spain adopted a diplomatic tone with Italy when it announced it would take the migrants, relations between Rome and Paris have deteriorated in an explosion of accusations and counter-accusations.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the decision to block the Aquarius, operated by the Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranne, saying international law obligated Italy to take in the migrants.

“There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government’s behavior with regard to this dramatic humanitarian situation,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux quoted Macron as telling his cabinet.

The situation escalated on Wednesday morning when Rome’s foreign ministry summoned the French ambassador for an explanation of Macron’s comments.

“If the French have the humility to say they are sorry, we can put it behind us and be friends like before,” Salvini told reporters on the sidelines of a business conference.

Also on Wednesday morning, an Italian coast guard vessel with 937 migrants aboard docked in Catania, Sicily.

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the fact that migrants rescued by Italian ships were landing in Italy showed that the government was not “inhumane or xenophobic”.

Italy has taken in more than 640,000 mainly African migrants and refugees over the past five years. Other EU states have largely ignored pleas by Rome to take in some of the newcomers and share the cost of their care.

Several EU countries have, however, housed migrants who entered the bloc via other routes, with Germany admitting more than a million people in recent years.

Salvini’s League scored its best-ever result in March national elections, partly on pledges to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants and halt the flow of newcomers, and has formed a coalition with the anti-system 5-Star Movement.

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