In a landmark embrace, Pope Francis has met the grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican on Monday a gesture which was sealed with a hugely symbolic hug and exchange of kisses.
Speaking about the occasion, the pope said: “Our meeting is the message,”
This is the first Vatican meeting between the leader of the world’s Catholics and the highest authority in Sunni Islam since Francis took office in 2013.
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 meeting lasted for about 30 minutes. The recent development is a welcome gesture as it would ease tensions generated by Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI who had 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.
Francis aims to broker peace that would initiate a higher tolerance level between Muslims and Christians.