23rd May 2016 - Coptic Bishop: after a meeting between Pope Francis and Grand Imam al Tayyib, the Egyptian press announces the resumption of dialogue between the Holy See and al Azhar"In Egypt great importance is given to the meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar: even the most popular newspapers dedicate large space to the event on the front page, and report that the decision to resume official dialogue between the Holy See and the largest Sunni Islam's theological institution has already been taken".
This is how Anba Kyrillos William Samaan, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assiut, describes to Agenzia Fides the attention and the expectations raised in the Egyptian society from the visit made this morning at the Vatican by Sheikh Ahmad al Tayyib, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, during which the maximum exponent of the most authoritative Sunni theological center also had an important dialogue with the Bishop of Rome. "That official dialogue" recalls Anba Kyrillos "was interrupted for five years due to the statements of Benedict XVI following the attack on the Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria: on that occasion, the Pope had recalled the responsibilities of local authorities in defense of Christians". Due to the words expressed by the Pope not only those of al-Azhar, but also members of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate had reacted badly.
Anba Kyrillos still judges positively the contribution offered in recent years by al Azhar in favor of coexistence and overcoming sectarian rifts, in the dramatic historical phase experienced by Egypt: "The Grand Imam, along with Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros, have helped to revitalize the 'House of the Egyptian family', the inter-religious liaison body created years ago by al Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch as a tool to prevent and mitigate sectarian conflicts, at a time when the upsurge of fundamentalist sectarianism seemed to put at risk the same national unity". In recent times, under the auspices of that institution, which coordinates a wide network throughout the country, about forty imams and priests animated together a "mission" in the schools of the Egyptian province in Minya to promote conferences and debates among students, the culture of encounter and peace, enhancing it as the basis of a peaceful social and religious coexistence. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 23/05/2016)