23 May 2016
Pope Francis talks with Ahmad el Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar mosque and university, during a private meeting at the Vatican on 23 May. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)
Pope Francis met today with the grand imam of Al Azhar Mosque, one of the oldest and most revered Sunni institutions in the world. CNS reports:
After five years of tension and top-level silence, Pope Francis and the grand imam of one of the most important Sunni Muslim universities in the world embraced at the Vatican May 23.
“The meeting is the message,” the pope told Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar University, as the religious scholar approached him just inside the door of the papal library.
El-Tayeb’s spring visit was the first meeting between a pontiff and a grand imam since the Muslim university in Cairo suspended talks in 2011.
Established in 1998, the formal dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican started to fray in 2006, after now-retired Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany. Al-Azhar officials and millions of Muslims around the world said the speech linked Islam to violence.
Al-Azhar halted the talks altogether in 2011 after the former pope had said Christians in the Middle East were facing persecution. Al-Azhar claimed that Pope Benedict had offended Islam and Muslims once more by focusing only on the suffering of Christians when many Muslims were suffering as well.
In February, Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, delivered a letter to el-Tayeb from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, council president, inviting him to the Vatican to meet the pope.
Cardinal Tauran and Bishop Ayuso welcomed the imam to the Vatican May 23 and accompanied him to the papal meeting.
Pope Francis sat to the side of his desk facing the grand imam rather than behind his desk as he customarily does when meeting with a visiting head of state.
Read the rest at CNS.
Tags: Pope Francis Interreligious Islam Sunni