Historic Meeting Between Saudi King And Catholic Cardinal

Demonstrates More Moderate Stance Of Saudi Government

King Salman of Saudi Arabia met Jean-Louis Tauran, a French Cardinal during Tauran’s maiden visit to the Gulf kingdom. It was also the first senior Catholic authority meeting inside the country.

The visit is the latest of similar meetings between senior Saudi authorities and other Christian representatives in recent months. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home to some of the holiest sites in Islam. The country bans other faiths from being practiced.

The cardinal is being hosted by the Etidal Center, an anti-extremism organization aligned with Saudi Arabia’s new push for an interreligious exchange. Tauran is the chief of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, under the control of the Vatican. The center has its headquarters in Riyadh. The word Etidal is the Arabic acronym for Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. The organization discussed with the Cardinal the ways and means to disrupt extremist recruitment and how to promote tolerance.

Etidal is the sum total effort of about 55 countries. The center functions principally around three important modern elements: media, ideology, and technology. The organization utilizes technology and media to disrupt the extremist recruitment. It also wants to promote co-existence and tolerance among different cultures and religions. It has designed unique algorithms and machine learning systems to detect extremist and violent online content.

Tauran is viewed as an emphatic promoter of continued dialogue between Islam and the Roman Catholic Church. He met King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the capital city of Riyadh on April 18. For Saudi officials, the Cardinal comes after Beshara Rai, the chief of the Maronite Church of Lebanon, met both King Salman and also Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince in his visit.

Prince Mohammed, who many believe will inherit the Saudi throne, wants to project a new Saudi Arabia which follows a moderate version of Islam. The kingdom is viewed outside the gulf as a country following jihadist ideology. The prince, who is already known as a reformer, has lifted the kingdom’s long ban on females driving cars. He has also authorized cinemas to operate after 30 long years. He is in line to keep his pledge.

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