2013-09-20 08:48:37

Pope Francis writes to Imam of prestigious Islamic University al-Azhar

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a personal message to Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the great Imam of al-Azhar University in Cairo, one of the most prestigious Sunni Islamic institutions in the Arab world. The Fides news agency, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, reported the news after receiving an official statement from al-Azhar which said the papal message expresses esteem and respect “for Islam and Muslims.” The note conveys the hope that efforts will be made to promote "understanding among Christians and Muslims in the world, to build peace and justice".

Fides reports that the Pope’s personal letter “was delivered on Tuesday, September 17 to the Great Imam of Al-Azhar by the Apostolic Nuncio in Egypt, Msg. Jean-Paul Gobel, together with the message to the Islamic world also signed by Pope Bergoglio for the end of Ramadan, recently issued by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.”

Dialogue between the Holy See and al-Azhar was interrupted by the university which, according to Fides, “interpreted Pope Benedict XVI’s statements on the need to protect Christians in Egypt and the Middle East as undue Western interference” following an attack against the Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria on New Year’s eve 2011.

Speaking to Fides about Pope Francis’ message to Imam al-Tayyeb, Father Hani Bakhoum, secretary of the Patriarchate of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts said it "is a way of expressing the deep sense of respect and affection that the Catholic Church, the Holy See and the Pope have towards all Muslims and especially for al-Azhar, which is the most representative institution of moderate Sunni Islam. Surely this letter will help over time to put aside any misunderstanding and also to resume the bilateral dialogue with the Holy See".

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