Pope Francis on October 16, 2018, received the Grand Imam of the prestigious Muslim al-Azhar Mosque of Egypt, Prof. Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib, in a private visit, at the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, the Holy See’s Press Office said in a brief note.
During that visit, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam spoke at the closing of an international peace conference organized by the Al-Azhar University.
El-Tayeb with Italian President
Egypt’s Al-Azhar and the Vatican have matching views on humanitarian issues, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb said in a meeting on Tuesday in Italy with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, according to Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency.
El-Tayeb said during the meeting that the two religious institutions are currently working together, while praising his relationship with Pope Francis.
He added that religion plays a very important role to ensure that life runs calmly and smoothly, adding that clerics are in need of support from politicians and governments given their power to accomplish peace and face modern moral challenges.
Al-Azhar and the Vatican recently resumed normal relations after ties were strained in 2011 when then-Pope Benedict XVI claimed that Christians faced discrimination in Egypt.
In 2016, El-Tayeb was received by Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace; a visit that has been described as “significant.”
In 2017, Pope Francis visited Egypt to deliver a message of peace in a two-day trip; the first papal visit to the country since late Pope John Paul II visited in 2000.
Al-Azhar and the Vatican resumed dialogue sessions in 2017 in Cairo for the first time in seven years, focussing in particular on efforts to combat religious extremism and terrorism.