05/24/2011, 00.00
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The Egyptian government tries to mend fences between Al-Azhar and the Vatican

In a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister, Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb says he is willing to renew relations with the Vatican. However, he still wants an official apology from the pope for making an appeal on behalf of Egypt’s Christians and their security. A spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church expresses his appreciation for the government’s work in trying to relay the Holy Father’s concerns about Egypt.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The new Egyptian government is trying to mend fences between Al-Azhar University and the Vatican. Recently, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby met Ahmed El-Tayeb, the imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, to discuss his recent visit with Benedict XVI. According to the minister, the head of Al-Azhar is prepared to renew relations with the Vatican, which were cut on 3 January after the pontiff came to the defence of Christians in the wake of the terrorist attack against Alexandria cathedral. However, university spokesman Mahmoud Abdel Jawwad said that any dialogue could be renewed only if the Vatican made an official apology for offending Islam.

Fr Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Catholic Church of Egypt and spokesman for seven Catholic denominations, stressed how hard Araby has tried to relay the pope’s concerns. During his talk with the foreign minister, the Holy Father expressed serious concerns about is happening in Egypt. Government mediation could bridge the gap between the Vatican and Egypt’s Islamic authorities, the priest said.

Sources told AsiaNews note however that any rapprochement between the two sides would be very difficult, especially since the fall of Mubarak.

For some observers, the imam of Al-Azhar has always been close to the country’s fundamentalist groups and that in the last few months he has met Salafi and Jamaat al Islamiya leaders several times.

The latter, together with the Muslim Brotherhood, want to take advantage of the Arab Spring to impose an Islamic state on the country, based on the Sharia.

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