Pope Francis today embraced the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, in an historic bid to reopen dialogue between the two churches.At a time of increased Islamic extremist attacks on Christians, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib was photographed hugging Francis during a visit to the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican.
“Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam,” he told French newspaper La Croix. “It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam, however, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”The Pope also said he “dreaded” hearing about the “Christian roots of Europe” because, to him, they take on “colonialist overtones” and he called on European nations to “integrate” Muslim migrants into the continent.“This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate,” he stated. “A demographic emptiness is developing.”
I would like to express two sentiments for my Muslim brothers and sisters: Firstly, my greetings as they celebrate the feast of sacrifice. I would have wished my greeting to be warmer. My sentiments of closeness, my sentiments of closeness in the face of tragedy. The tragedy that they suffered in Mecca.In this moment, I give assurances of my prayers. I unite myself with you all. A prayer to almighty god, all merciful.
I then greet and cordially thank you all, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions; first of all the Muslims, who worship the one God, living and merciful, and call upon Him in prayer, and all of you. I really appreciate your presence: in it I see a tangible sign of the will to grow in mutual esteem and cooperation for the common good of humanity.The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions – I wish to repeat this: promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions – it also attests the valuable work that the Pontifical Council for interreligious dialogue performs.
In this video, Pope Francis explains that people all over the world are “seeking God or meeting God in different ways” and that “there is only one certainty that we have for all: we are all children of God”. At about the 20 second mark, leaders from various major religions are shown declaring what they believe. First, a female Buddhist announces “I have confidence in the Buddha“. Secondly, a Jewish rabbi declares “I believe in God“. Thirdly, a Catholic priest tells us that “I believe in Jesus Christ“, and lastly an Islamic leader is shown saying “I believe in God, Allah“.