AFP/File / Kenzo Tribouillard, Filippo Monteforte Pope Francis (left) is to receive the spiritual leader of the world's Sunni Muslims, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (right), at the Vatican
AFP/File / Kenzo Tribouillard, Filippo Monteforte Pope Francis (left) is to receive the spiritual leader of the world's Sunni Muslims, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (right), at the Vatican

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam, will have an audience with the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics at St Peter’s, Father Federico Lombardi told AFP.

AFP/File / Kenzo Tribouillard, Filippo Monteforte  Pope Francis (left) is to receive the spiritual leader of the world's Sunni Muslims, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (right), at the Vatican
AFP/File / Kenzo Tribouillard, Filippo Monteforte
Pope Francis (left) is to receive the spiritual leader of the world’s Sunni Muslims, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (right), at the Vatican

“This audience is being prepared and has been scheduled for Monday,” he said. “It will be a first.”

The visit marks the restoration of cordial relations between the two faiths. Ties were soured under Pope Benedict XVI after Francis’s now-retired predecessor made a September 2006 speech in which he was perceived to have described Islam as a violent religion.

Dialogue resumed in 2009 but was suspended again by Al-Azhar in 2011 when Benedict called for the protection of Christian minorities after a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria, an intervention that was perceived as meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs.

Relations have steadily improved since Francis became pope in 2013 with inter-faith dialogue near the top of his agenda, something he underlined with a personal message to the Muslim world to mark the end of the first month of Ramadan of his pontificate.

Source: Vatican City (AFP)

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