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Pope to meet with leading Sunni imam

May 20, 2016

Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 23, according to the director of the Holy See Press Office.

“It will be a first,” said Father Federico Lombardi, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

The Egyptian cleric is viewed by some as the highest authority in Sunni Islam. Often described as a moderate, el-Tayeb has criticized the Islamic State.

Representatives of Al Azhar were actively engaged in dialogue with the Holy See until January 2011, when the Egyptian university broke off ties to protest public statements in which Pope Benedict XVI had decried violence against Egypt's Christian minority. The university said the Pope's remarks were "unacceptable interference into Egypt's affairs." However, in 2013 Al Azhar indicated that it looked forward to a resumption of dialogue under Pope Francis, and in February of this year the exchanges were renewed.

 
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