More than a year later, Al-Azhar head still waiting for Vatican apology

More than a year after freezing relations with the Catholic Church, Al-Azhar’s grand sheikh is still waiting for an apology from the pope for statements the pontiff made.

The revered Islamic institution decided in January of last year to freeze a semi-annual meeting between Vatican and Al-Azhar scholars in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s earlier statement that Christians suffer from discrimination in the Middle East. Tayyeb said relations could exist as long as the Vatican does not issue statements critical of Muslims.

Tayyeb said Wednesday that relations would remain on hold until the pope officially apologizes.

“Dialogue with the Vatican was frozen, but dialogue with the Catholic people is still ongoing all over the world,” said Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb during a meeting at Al-Azhar with Italian Ambassador to Egypt Claudio Pacifico.

The joint meeting was established in 1997 and held twice a year to discuss cooperation between the two religious institutions. It had previously been criticized for only airing general issues and common problems without broaching issues related to faith.

Al-Azhar has halted the meeting several times since its creation due to what it deemed hostile statements from the Vatican regarding Islam.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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