Al-Azhar envoy to Pope Francis: Declaring Islam ‘peaceful’ a contingency for restoring interfaith ties

(JNS.org) An envoy from Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, one of the highest centers of learning in the Islamic world, has called on Pope Francis to declare Islam a “peaceful religion” as a precondition to restoring ties between the world’s two largest faiths. 

Pope Francis. Credit: Casa Rosada via Wikimedia Commons.

“The problems that we had were not with the Vatican but with the former pope. Now the doors of Al-Azhar are open,” Mahmoud Abdel Gawad, diplomatic envoy to the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, told the Cairo-based Italian daily Il Messaggero in a report cited by AFP.

“Francis is a new pope. We are expecting a step forward from him. If in one of his addresses he were to declare that Islam is a peaceful religion, that Muslims are not looking for war or violence, that would be progress in itself,” he said.

But Gawad ruled out any dialogue that would include Jewish leaders, saying during the interview that Al-Azhar “will not take part in any meeting with Israelis.”

Under Pope Benedict, the Catholic Church had strained relations with the Muslim world over comments Benedict made about the Prophet Mohammed in 2006. Additionally, both Benedict and Francis have been critical of Muslim treatment of Christian minorities in the Middle East.

Posted on June 12, 2013 .