World Europe 24 May 2016 Pope Francis meets t ...

Pope Francis meets top Imam in Vatican

AFP
Published May 24, 2016, 1:46 am IST
Updated May 24, 2016, 1:46 am IST
The “very cordial” meeting lasted around 30 minutes, the Vatican said in a statement after the talks.
Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, left, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, exchange gifts with Pope Francis during a private audience in the Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican. (Photo: AP)
 Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, left, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, exchange gifts with Pope Francis during a private audience in the Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican. (Photo: AP)

Vatican City: Pope Francis met the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican on Monday in a historic encounter that was sealed with a hugely symbolic hug and exchange of kisses.

The first Vatican meeting between the leader of the world’s Catholics and the highest authority in Sunni Islam marks the culmination of a significant improvement in relations between the two faiths since Francis took office in 2013 “Our meeting is the message,” Francis said in a brief comment to a small pool of reporters present at the start of his meeting with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. In a statement on the trip, Al-Azhar said Tayeb had accepted Francis’s invitation in order to “explore efforts to spread peace and co-existence.”

 

The “very cordial” meeting lasted around 30 minutes, the Vatican said in a statement after the talks. Tayeb’s decision to fly to Rome, unexpectedly announced last week, followed the easing of serious tensions that marked the reign of of Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI. Ties were badly soured when the now-retired Benedict made a September 2006 speech in which he was perceived to have linked Islam to violence, sparking deadly protests in several countries and reprisal attacks on Christians.

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