By Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor
(CNN)When Pope Francis travels to Egypt on Friday, he will retrace a journey his namesake made nearly 800 years ago, with a somewhat similar mission in mind.
In 1219, St. Francis crossed battlefields strewn with slain soldiers to reach the Muslim sultan’s camp in Egypt. His aim was to end the Crusades, an act of idealism that fellow Christians feared would end in Francis’ death.
The friar survived, but his plan didn’t. Malik al-Kamil refused to convert to Christianity.
But the conversation was courteous, according to tradition, and ended with the sultan offering a peace treaty that included Christian control of Jerusalem. The Crusaders rejected the proposal, and fighting continued for another 72 years.
Pope Francis’ trip to Egypt is fraught with dangers of its own, from fears of a terrorist attack to questions about allying with an Egyptian president who, according to watchdog groups, has run roughshod over human rights.