Pope Francis met on Tuesday with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Muhammad al-Tayeb who is in Rome to attend a conference organised by the St Egidio community.
No details of the private encounter were released, but the meeting marked the second trip to the Vatican in two years by Egypt’s top Muslim leader. His first meeting with the pope in May 2016 marked an important step forward after five years of suspended dialogue between the Holy See and the prestigious Al-Azhar university.
Pope’s visit to Cairo
In April this year, Pope Francis travelled to Cairo to visit the headquarters of Sunni Muslim scholarship and attend an international peace conference there. During his two day visit to Egypt, the pope urged religious leaders to denounce violations of human rights and expose attempts to justify violence and hatred in the name of God.
Respecful interreligious dialogue
He appealed for respectful interreligious dialogue, saying the only alternative to a culture of civilized encounter is “the incivility of conflict”. Recalling the visit of St Francis to the Sultan in Egypt eight centuries ago, he called for dialogue based on sincerity and the courage to accept differences.