Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - A coordination Committee linked to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Center for Dialogue of the University of Al Azhar, the most authoritative academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, has started the first joint initiative between the two institutions after the resumption of direct dialogue: a seminar study on problems related to the presence of religious communities in the context of civil society.
The general outlines of the study seminar in Cairo, scheduled for next February - reports a statement sent to Agenzia Fides - were at the center of a meeting held on Saturday, November 12 in the Egyptian capital between the Jordanian priest Khaled Akashè, in charge of relations with Islam of the Pontifical Council for interreligious dialogue, and Professor Muhieddin Afifi, general Secretary of the Academy of Islamic Research of al Azhar.
The seminar in February should inaugurate a series of in-depth meetings organized together by al Azhar and the Holy See. Among the topics that will be discussed there will be the big issues that challenge contemporary religious communities, such as poverty, migration, illiteracy, and the relationship between religion and violence, with the eye of course addressed to the manipulation of language and religious content by terror agencies and their strategies. The basic intent of the initiative is to increase knowledge and mutual familiarity between the Holy See and al Azhar, in order to also multiply spaces and opportunities for concrete collaboration, not only at a purely academic level.
The recovery at a high level of relations between the Holy See and al Azhar was inaugurated by the visit made in Cairo at the end of February, by Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot MCCJ, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who on that occasion also invited Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, grand imam al-Azhar University to Rome. Grand Imam al Tayyeb was then received by Pope Francis on May 23.
The previous suspension of relations between the Holy See and al Azhar dates back to 2011, after the attack on the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Alexandria on New Year's eve. On that occasion, Pope Benedict XVI reprimanded the responsibilities of local authorities in the defense of Christians. Al Azhar, but also members of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate reacted badly to the words expressed by Pope Benedict XVI. That, said to Fides the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, "was a difficult moment due to a misunderstanding of Pope Benedict XVI’s words that perhaps, for some, was intentional. But the important thing is to have taken the right path again". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 14/11/2016)