Pope expected to receive imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University
By Iacopo Scaramuzzi/ Vatican city – Abouna.org
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyib, the grand imam of Al-Azhar University
The invitation from a Vatican delegation to Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyib, the grand imam of Al-Azhar University, on Thursday, May 19, marked a turning point after years of frozen relations between the Holy See and the Egyptian University. Holy See spokesman, Federico Lombardi said the audience is being prepared.
The much-awaited meeting between Pope Francis and the Imam of Al-Azhar university, Ahmad Al-Tayyib, should take place Monday 23 May, after years of frozen relations between the prestigious Egyptian Sunni Islamic academic institution and the Holy See.
“A papal audience with Al-Azhar’s Imam is being prepared and has been scheduled for Monday,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a statement to journalists today. “We don’t yet know the time and the exact details but we expect it will go ahead,” he explained.
Last February, a Vatican delegation visited Al-Azhar university, expressing the Holy See’s willingness to welcome the Grand Imam for a meeting with the Pope. A Vatican statement informed that Mgr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, along with the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Mgr. Bruno Musarò, paid a visit to “prestigious Sunni Muslim institution” Al-Azhar.
The delegation was received by Dr. Abbas Shuman, the Grand Imam Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyib’s deputy. “The meeting took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality,” the statement said, “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 Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue wishes to thank those who helped with the success of the visit to Al-Azhar University and hopes that it will lead to a fruitful collaboration”.
Al-Azhar decided to cease its co-operation with the Holy See after a comment Benedict XVI made in January 2011, saying that an attack on Alexandria’s Copts “is yet another sign of the 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 this as political meddling, with the Egyptian government going as far as to recall its ambassador to the Holy See and the Sunni university decided to suspend its dialogue with the Holy See in light of Joseph Ratzinger’s words.
The Vatican, Fr. Lombardi said today,Thursday, May 19, will send “a high-level delegation headed by the Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and composed, amongst others, of Mgr. Auza, Permanent Observer in New York and Mgr. Tomasi,” to the first world humanitarian summit convened by the UN in Istanbul, on 23 and 24 May. Mgr. Tomasi is the former Permanent Observer to the UN in Geneva and currently serving in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The spokesman also announced that the Pope is expected to record a video message for the summit, which will be released soon.