5-Year Silent Treatment Between Vatican and Islamic Authority is Ending

After five years the Vatican and Egypt’s highest Islamic authority will resume communication.

The highest authority in the Sunni Muslim world, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand Imam of the prestigious Al-Azhar mosque will be resuming talks with the Pope Francis. Al-Azhar and the Vatican had a strong relationship until 2011, when a few comments made by then Pope, Benedict XVI, ended communication between the two. Last May, the grand Imam met Pope Francis at the Vatican, heralding the possibility of renewed dialogue between the two major religious institutions.

The Vatican announced it will be sending Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to Cairo to conduct the preliminary procedures before an official discussion is held between the grand imam and the pope, possibly next April.

Pope Benedict XVI had accused Egypt of conducting a systematic attack on Christians. Condemning the blasts outside a church that claimed the lives of 23 people, Pope Benedict XVI came out very harshly on the religious leaders of Egypt. He went to the extent of accusing the Prophet Muhammed of preaching violence and hatred. This brought the relations between Al-Azhar and the Vatican to a standstill. Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the relations between the two improved, so the two religious institutions are standing on the edge of resuming the spiritual relationship.

This resumption of dialogue will be significant for many reasons. In the light of the growing persecution of Christians in Iraq as well as in Egypt, this meeting will play a key role in bringing the two communities together. Contrary to Pope Benedict's views, Pope Francis has been very outspoken in his views that Islam is a religion of peace and the Quran does not condone violence. These views have gone well with global Muslim leaders, which resulted in easing of tensions between the Catholic church and Islam. The meeting will be a concrete example of this growing ties.

Vatican sources say the meeting will provide a platform for the Vatican to discuss with the spiritual body of Al-Azhar, together with the Egyptian Nuncio, Archbishop Bruno Musaro, “the possibilities to promote concrete initiatives for peace.”

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