Pope Francis has met the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican in a historic encounter that was sealed with a hugely symbolic hug and exchange of kisses.
The first Vatican meeting on Monday 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 at the start of his meeting with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Vatican officials told a small pool of reporters covering the event.
In a statement on the trip, Al-Azhar, an institution that also comprises a prestigious seat of learning, said Tayeb had accepted Francis’ 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…
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