.- The Press Office of the Holy See announced today that Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar and the leading Muslim official in Egypt, has accepted Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to visit the Vatican.
According to a communiqué released today, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, president of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, and president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was received in Cairo, Egypt, today by Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar.
The Cardinal was, “welcomed in an atmosphere of great cordiality.” After relaying Pope Benedict’s greetings, Poupard extended the Holy Father’s invitation to meet in Rome, “an invitation that was accepted with satisfaction.”
The Vatican press release says that the meeting of the two men provided an opportunity to evaluate the work of the 'Joint Dialogue Commission' comprised of members of the 'Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions' and of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The commission meets on February 24 every year - alternately in Cairo and Rome - in memory of Pope John Paul II's visit to al-Azhar on February 24, 2000. The two also discussed other aspects of relations between Christians and Muslims.
Following his meeting with the Grand Imam, Cardinal Poupard is also to meet Hamdi Zaqzuq, the government minister for religion.