Egypt's Al-Azhar and the Vatican have resumed dialogue sessions in Cairo — focused in particular on combining efforts to combat religious extremism and terrorism — for the first time since the sessions were halted in 2010.
A special seminar held at Al-Azhar University Wednesday was attended by a range of Al-Azhar scholars and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The seminar can been seen as a step towards officially restoring ties, which were strained in 2011.
Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb paid a visit to the Vatican in May 2016 for a meeting with Pope Francis, which marked a major step in thawing relations between Al-Azhar and the Vatican, which soured in 2011 after claims that Pope Benedict had interfered in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the Coptic Christmas period.
During the seminar, Cardinal Tauran said that despite several differences, Islam is considered the closest religion to Christianity as an Abrahamic religion.
Tauran also said that fanatics and extremists are the primary reason behind misconceptions in religions, as they force others to follow their ideas and beliefs. He added that religious leaders should have courage announce their rejection to violence committed in the name of religion.
Mahmoud Hamdy Zakzouk, head of Al-Azhar's Dialogue Centre, stressed the importance of holding such seminars to enhance coexistence and combat religious extremism and terrorism.