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Vatican moves to resume exchanges with Egypt's Al Azhar University

February 17, 2016

The Vatican has extended an invitation to Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, the head of Egypt's Al Azhar University, to meet with Pope Francis and resume a series of formal exchanges, the Fides news service reports. Al Azhar has accepted the invitation in principle. 

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Representatives of Al Azhar-- the most prestigious institution in the world of Sunni Islam-- 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." More recently, however, in 2013 Al Azhar indicated that it looked forward to a resumption of dialogue under Pope Francis. 

This week Archbishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, traveled to Egypt to present the Vatican's invitation personally. He told Fides that the Vatican hopes "to resume friendly relations of cooperation-- that on our behalf have never stopped." He added that "we hope this will happen soon."

The archbishop remarked that it is important to move toward a resumption of dialogue with the Islamic institution "in the moment of darkness that we are experiencing," as a possible means of relieving worldwide tensions between Islam and the Western world. 


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