Vatican City: Pope Francis called for the Roman Catholic Church to “intensify” its dialogue with Islam, echoing hopes in the Muslim World for better ties with the Vatican during his reign. “It is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam,” the new pontiff said in an address to foreign ambassadors at the Vatican. The new pontiff has been welcomed by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Al-Azhar. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the Jeddah-based OIC, said that he hoped “the relationship between Islam and Christianity will regain its cordiality and sincere friendship”.
Mahmud Azab, adviser for interfaith affairs to Al-Azhar Imam, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb in Cairo, stated: “As soon as a new policy emerges, we will resume the dialogue with the Vatican”. In his address, Francis also called for the Church to dialogue more with non-believers — returning to an effort begun during Benedict’s reign amid rising secularism in the Western world. “It is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship,” he said.
The Argentine pope said he wanted to “build bridges connecting all people” and said this was particularly significant for him personally because of his own Italian immigrant roots. “This dialogue between places and cultures, a great distance apart matters greatly to me,” the pope said. He referred to it as a “dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent”. The 76-year-old pope elected last month said he wanted the Church to struggle against poverty in all its forms. “How many poor people there still are in the world!” he said, adding that there was also a “spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called rich nations particularly seriously”.