Vatican resumes dialogue with Cairo’s Al-Azhar

Cairo, Feb 23 (IANS/AKI) The Vatican and Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University have resumed dialogue sessions in Cairo that were broken off in 2011 after Pope Benedict deplored an attack on a Coptic Church in Alexandria.

The Vatican’s interfaith dialogue chief Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the head of its Office for Islam, Khaled Akasheh, and a range of Al-Azhar scholars were among participants at a Wednesday seminar focussed on combining efforts to combat religious extremism and terrorism.

“Dialogue must prevail between men to dissipate… differences, and religion is capable of overcoming discord with tolerance,” Mahmoud Zaqzouq of Al-Azhar said in an opening address to the seminar.

The Al-Azhar’s number-two, Abbas Shuman deplored “the many crimes that are committed in the name of religion”.

“Islam’s essential message is of goodwill and peace to all humanity,” Shuman said.

Tauran said that despite a number of differences, Islam was considered the closest religion to Christianity as an Abrahamic religion.

Tauran attacked fanatics and extremists who he said forced others follow their distorted ideas and beliefs and cause “misconceptions”.

The seminar follows a meeting last May at the Vatican between Pope Francis and the Al-Azhar’s grand imam, Ahmed al-Tayeb, which represented a warming of ties.