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.
Italy’s Mattarella expressed his appreciation for El-Tayeb’s visit, which he said is a symbol of peace and dialogue.
Mattarella praised the "brotherly relationship" between El-Tayeb and Pope Francis, which he described as a model of how a relationship between clergies should be.
He added that the cooperation between Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, and the Vatican contributes strongly to boosting the values of coexistence and dialogue, as well as countering attempts by some to use religion as a justification for violence.
Mattarella also hailed Al-Azhar's role in combating extremist and violent ideas, serving as a symbol of moderation and openness, and fostering coexistence and dialogue among Muslims worldwide.
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.