Pope Francis Seeks More Dialogue With Muslims
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, headed by Cardinal JeanLouis Tauran, is reaching out to Al-Azhar Mosque.
For Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, dialogue with Muslims is a core issue. He recently voiced hopes to meet a major Sunni leader: the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, Ahmed el-Tayeb. “I want to meet him. I know that he would like it,” the Pope said. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, is reaching out to Al-Azhar Mosque. Father Miguel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, visited al-Azhar on Feb. 16 and met with the mosque’s deputy imam, Abbas Shuman. The Vatican’s Press Office said the two had a “cordial meeting.” At this meeting, the priest invited the Grand Imam to meet with the Pope at the Vatican.
The dialogue with Islam is so important to Pope Francis that he elevated Fr. Ayuso to the rank of bishop. The bishop-designate is a scholar in Islamic Studies and served as a professor in Cairo. After his ordination, his new rank will give him a major impact in his work to strengthen connections with the Muslim world, a commitment crucial to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Cardinal Tauran and Fr. Ayuso had a private audience with Pope Francis Feb. 20. At this meeting they reported on the cardinal’s trip to Doha, the Qatari capital. While Fr. Ayuso was in Cairo, Cardinal Tauran traveled to Qatar. There, he gave a speech at a two-day conference on the topic “Spiritual and Intellectual Security in Light of Religious Doctrines.” The conference was sponsored by the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue. In his remarks, Cardinal Tauran stressed that dialogue among religions is needed “now more than ever.” He asked his audience to pay greater attention towards “the message they convey to the youth.” He encouraged them to be “objective and respectful of legitimate differences” in ethnicity, religion, language, culture, and other categories. As some work to secure the visit of al-Azhar’s Grand Imam to the Vatican, Pope Francis is also working to improve dialogue with Islam in Italy. He has accepted an invitation to visit the Mosque of Rome. The visit will likely take place April 10.