A Holy See delegation paid a visit to Al-Azhar University, the prestigious Sunni Islam centre of learning in Cairo, following strained relations over recent years.
A Vatican delegation has visited Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s prestigious Sunni Islamic educational institution, after a chill in relations in recent years. The delegation extended an invitation to the Grand Imam to meet the Pope.
A Vatican communiqué informed yesterday that the Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, made a visit to “the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, considered Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution of learning”. He was accompanied by the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Archbishop Bruno Musarò. The delegation was received by Dr. Abbas Shuman, who is the Deputy of Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyib, the Grand Imam. The statement said the meeting took place in “an atmosphere of great cordiality”, and the parties discussed the need for a resumption of dialogue between the two institutions, “as called for by Pope Francis and several persons of good will”. The parties “agreed on the importance of continuing and strengthening this dialogue for the good of humanity”. The Secretary, Mgr. Ayuso, delivered a letter from Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, in which he expressed his readiness to receive the Grand Imam and to accompany him officially in an audience with Pope Francis. The statement said the PCID thanked those who “helped with the success” of the visit to Al-Azhar University, and added it “hopes that it will lead to a fruitful collaboration”.
Al-Azhar decided to suspend talks with the Holy See in January 2011, after Benedict XVI mentioned an attack against Alexandria’s Copts as one of the reasons why there was an “urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities”. Cairo interpreted these words as political meddling, with the Egyptian government at the time going as far as to recall its ambassador to the Holy See. The Sunni university in turn, announced it was freezing dialogue with the Holy See, citing also Joseph Ratzinger’s Regensburg lecture.
Source: Vatican Insider