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Pope Francis exchanges greetings with Imam of Al Azhar University

September 19, 2013

Pope Francis has sent a personal message to the head of Egypt’s Al Azhar University, calling for “understanding among Christians and Muslims in the world, to build peace and justice.”

The Pope’s message was delivered to Sheik Ahmed Al Tayyed, the head of Al Azhar, by Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, the apostolic nuncio in Egypt. The papal message was made public by Al Azhar, along with an indication that Al Tayyed had replied, expressing his willingness “to collaborate to help justice and peace grow among the people of the earth.”

The Pope’s private message to the Islamic leader, and the university’s decision to publicize the exchange, are regarded as signs of a thaw in relations between the Vatican and the Egyptian institution. Al Azhar University—which is the most prestigious institution in the Sunni Muslim world-- had been a regular partner in dialogue with the Vatican until January 2012. At that time, the Islamic institution broke off formal contacts with the Holy See, complaining that Pope Benedict XVI had interfered with the internal political affairs of Egypt when he denounced the attack on the Coptic cathedral in Alexandria on New year’s eve in 2011.


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