Pope Francis yesterday 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.
Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI was seen by some Muslim leaders as hostile to Islam and the change at the top had been welcomed by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Al-Azhar, Islam’s highest seat of learning.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the Saudi-based OIC, said earlier this month that he hoped “the relationship between Islam and Christianity will regain its cordiality and sincere friendship.”
Mahmud Azab, adviser for inter-faith affairs to Al-Azhar imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb in Cairo, also told AFP earlier: “As soon as a new policy emerges, we will resume the dialogue with the Vatican.”
Al-Azhar broke off ties in 2011 after Benedict called for the protection of Christian minorities following a suicide bombing at a church in Egypt. Benedict was also heavily criticized early in his reign when he gave a blasphemous statement about the