Grand Imam Of Al-Azhar Mosque Meets Pope At Vatican
“We need to take a joint stance, hand in hand, to bring happiness to humanity. Divine religions were revealed to make people happy, not to cause them hardship.” So reads a statement from Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque, following a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The pope’s words were even simpler. “Our meeting is the message.”
The meeting between the leader of the world’s Catholic and Sunni Muslim communities was convened as a “peace conference” according to Tayeb’s officials, and began with the pope hugging and kissing his guest.
The last meeting between a pope and grand imam of al-Azhar was in 2000, in the Cairo mosque. Yesterday’s 30-minute conversation marked a significant return to good relations, after remarks by Pope Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI in 2006 seemed to link Islam inextricably with violence.
Pope Francis is regarded to have made relations with the Muslim community a cornerstone of his time as the pontiff. In April he gave three Sunni Syrian families asylum in the Vatican. The “great significance” of the grand Imam’s return visit to the Vatican was made possible by the pope’s conciliatory overtones to the Muslim community.
Deputy imam Abbas Shuman told Egyptian television, “If it were not for these good positions, this meeting would not be happening.”