In a historic meeting on Monday 23 May 2016 between the leader of the world’s Catholics and the highest authority in Sunni Islam; the Grand Imam, Dr Ahmed al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, visited Vatican City (Rome, Italy) to promote values of peace, dialogue, tolerance and coexistence among all peoples and countries, in order to protect humanity against terrorism, violence, poverty and diseases.
Leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, Pope Francis, welcomed the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and the accompanying high-level delegation from Al-Azhar University, expressing his appreciation for the visit and stressing, “We have a common message of peace, tolerance and constructive dialogue.” The Pope added that the whole world puts its hopes in religious figures such as the Grand Imam, and it is the responsibility of international religious institutions such as Al-Azhar and the Vatican to make efforts for the happiness of humanity and to fight poverty, ignorance and illness.
From his part, the Grand Imam stated, “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.” The Grand Imam stressed that Al-Azhar, as a globally recognized institution, promotes the moderation of Islam, and that Al-Azhar and its scholars spread the message of peace and dialogue to counter extremism. In its efforts, Al-Azhar works in partnership with the Muslim Council of Elders (Majlis Hukama’ al-Muslimin) and sends out peace envoys to the whole world.
Concluding the very significant meeting between the Pope and the Grand Imam, they both agreed to hold an international conference between Al-Azhar and the Vatican, to emphasize the message of global peace, which both the Grand Imam and the Pope are collectively trying to promote. At the end of the visit, Pope Francis presented the Grand Imam with his Laudato Si (Environmental Encyclical) and a Peace Medal.
The Grand Imam was accompanied by a high-level delegation from Al-Azhar scholars consisting of Prof Dr. Abbas Shuman (Under Secretary of Al-Azhar), Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk (Member of the Supreme Council of Senior Al-Azhar Scholars and Director of the Al-Azhar Centre for Dialogue), Prof. Dr. Mohey al-Deen Afifi (Secretary General of the Islamic Research Academy of Al-Azhar) and Advocate Mohammad Abdelsalam (Advisor to the Grand Imam).