The Palestinian Authority (PA) said it mediated an historic meeting between Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al- Tayeb and Pope Francis, AlKhaleejOnline reported.
PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash said the Palestinian leadership closely followed up on the “historic” meeting which was held in the Vatican.
He noted that the meeting came after PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other diplomats followed up on the issue throughout the PA embassy in the Vatican.
Al-Azhar Information Centre said it was an “historic” meeting that both sides agreed to coordinate efforts in order to reinforce peace and spread the culture of tolerance, coexistence among nations and protecting people from violence, extremism, poverty and disease.
The meeting ended a five-year impasse between the two religious institutions.
Al-Azhar severed relations with the Vatican in 2006, when former Pope Benedict XVI linked Islam to violence. Relations were later normalised but severed again in 2008 when Benedict commented on assaults on an Egyptian church.
A statement quoted Tayeb as telling the pope: “We need to take a joint stance, hand in hand, to bring happiness to humanity. Divine religions were revealed to make people happy, not to cause them hardship.”
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement that the pope and the imam had “mainly addressed the common challenges faced by the authorities and faithful of the major religions of the world”.
The pope presented the imam with a copy of his recent letter to the faithful in which he urges the world to wake up to the threat posed by climate change and economic inequality.