Pope Francis received in audience in the Vatican on Monday, 23 May, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheik Ahmed Muhammad Al-Tayyib.
In a note, the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ. said the approximately 30 minute meeting was “very cordial” and that the Grand Imam of Egypt “was accompanied by an important delegation, which included: Dr. Abbas Shouman, Undersecretary of Al-Azhar; Dr. Mahmaoud Hamdi Zakzouk, member of the Council of Senior Scholars of Al-Azhar University and Director of the Center for Dialogue of Al-Azhar; Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, Advisor to the Great Imam; Dr. Mohie Afifi Afifi Ahmed, secretary-general of the Islamic Research Academy; Ambassador Mahmoud Abdel Gawad, Diplomatic Advisor to the Grand Imam; Mr. Tamer Tawfik, Advisor; and Mr Ahmad Alshourbagy, Second Secretary. The delegation was accompanied by the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Mr. Hatem Seif Elnasr.
Upon his arrival in the Vatican, the Grand Imam was welcomed, and then accompanied to his audience with the Pope, by the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, and by the Secretary of the same dicastery, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot.
Fr. Lombardi further states that the Pope and Grand Imam noted “the great significance of this new meeting in the framework of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam.” The two then mainly “discussed the common commitment of the authorities and the faithful of the great religions for peace in the world, the rejection of violence and terrorism, the situation of Christians in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Middle East and their protection.”
During the meeting, Pope Francis gave the Grand Imam the Medallion of the olive tree of peace and a copy of his Encyclical Letter Laudato si’.
Following his audience with the Holy Father, the Grand Imam and his delegation met briefly with Cardinal Tauran and Bishop Guixot Ayuso in another audience hall in the Apostolic Palace.