Vatican City (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Islamic Research Academy from the State University Al-Azhar decided, during a special meeting held this morning in Cairo, to suspend dialogue with the Vatican. Academy member, Abdel Muti al-Bayoumi, told Aki agency, "this decision was made in response to the position taken by Pope Benedict XVI on Islam." In this regard, al-Bayoumi recalled the Pope’s controversial Regensburg address of 2006. The Al-Azhar academic added that the decision also takes into account, " the recent unacceptable interference (the Pope, ed), who sought protection for Coptic Christians," after the massacre in Alexandria. The Islamic theologian has therefore asked Pope Benedict XVI to "resume relations with Islam following the lead of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II." "I hope he takes the same position - he said - because he was very interested in our activities and the Joint Committee between al-Azhar and the Vatican at the time was very active." Egyptian religious did not particularly like " interference in the affairs of Egypt and the fact that Islam was described in the wrong way. We are still waiting for an apology over these two questions."
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, interviewed by AsiaNews, said: "The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is gathering the necessary information to assess the situation, since it had not received any prior communication on the part of ' Al Azhar University in reference to the problem. " Father Lombardi also explained that "The position of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Holy See, even now remains the same as always, and that is an attitude of openness and readiness for dialogue."
The Al Azhar decision comes just days after the Egyptian government’s criticism of the Vatican. This was sparked by Benedict XVI mentioning the tragedy of the attack to the church of Alexandria in his speech to the diplomatic corps (see 10/01/2011 Pope: Religious freedom attacked by terrorism and marginalisation). Egypt recalled its ambassador, demanding that the Vatican not intervene in the country’s internal affairs (12/01/2011 Cairo protests against the Vatican. Another Christian killed and five wounded).
Benedict XVI was also criticised by the Imam of Al Azhar University January 1 last. According to Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the pope in his New Year’s homily only appealed for the defence of Christians, failing to concern himself with the Muslims in Iraq. (See footnote (1) on 03/01/2011 Europe and Islam in the wake of attacks against Copts in Alexandria).
Even Arab leaders, who met yesterday in Sharm el-Sheikh, while condemning the "terrorist" attacks on Christians in Egypt and Iraq, warned against "foreign interference on the issue of minority rights".