Pope Francis: Reaching Out To Muslims

 

Pope Francis has made dialogue with Islam a cornerstone of his papacy, which began in 2013, and visited several countries with large Muslim populations.

In February he will become the first pontiff to go to the Arabian Peninsula when he visits the United Arab Emirates. He is scheduled to travel to Morocco in March.

Here is a recap of some of his other trips to meet Muslims.

Jordan, Palestinian territories, Israel

In May 2014 Pope Francis receives a warm welcome in Jordan’s capital Amman from King Abdullah II and meets with Syrian refugees.

A day later he begins a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, stopping off for a silent prayer at the controversial separation wall erected by the Israelis.

Francis also visits some of the most sacred sites in Islam and Judaism, including the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and the Western Wall.

Albania

In September the same year he visits Albania where he praises the peaceful coexistence of its Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims, labelling it “a precious gift to the country”.

Francis says it is especially important “in these times where an authentic religious spirit is being perverted and where religious differences are being distorted”.

Turkey

In November 2014 he travels to Turkey where there is a comparatively tiny Christian community — just 80,000 among about 75 million Muslims.

In Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque, Francis clasps his hands in prayer alongside a senior Islamic cleric, a gesture of fraternity with Islam similar to that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, in the same place eight years before.

While the pope defends the alliance of religions against terrorism, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, responds by issuing a strong warning about “seriously and rapidly” rising Islamophobia in the world.

Central Africa

In November 2015 Pope Francis is given a rapturous welcome in the Central African Republic, a country plagued by sectarian violence.

During his 26 hours there, he visits a mosque in Bangui’s flashpoint PK5 Muslim neighbourhood where he says Christians and Muslims are “brothers”.

“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence,” he says.

Among the crowd are several Muslims from PK5 wearing T-shirts bearing the pope’s image.

Azerbaijan

In October 2016 the pontiff makes a brief visit to mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, a volatile ex-Soviet Caucasus region.

There he praises the “benefits of multiculturalism and of the necessary complementarity of cultures” where the different religions practise “mutual collaboration and respect”.

Egypt

In April 2017 Francis pays the second papal visit to Egypt of modern times, 17 years after that of pope John Paul II.

In a country where 10 percent of the population of 92 million is Coptic Christian, he says “true faith” depends on “the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity.”

He visits Al-Azhar university, one of the Muslim world’s leading religious authorities with whom the Vatican’s ties soured in 2006 when Benedict XVI made a speech in which he was seen as linking Islam to violence.\

Myanmar and Bangladesh

In December 2017, during a visit to Bangladesh, the pope asks for “forgiveness” from Muslim Rohingya refugees who have fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar in their hundreds of thousands.

“In the name of all those who have persecuted you, who have harmed you, in the face of the world’s indifference, I ask for your forgiveness,” he says after meeting 16 Rohingya refugees.

The pontiff had just made a four-day visit to Myanmar where he called on Buddhist clergy to conquer “prejudice and hatred”, without explicitly referring to the Rohingyas.

 

AFP

Christmas: Pope Sues For Peace In Yemen, Syria And Other Flashpoints

 

Pope Francis used his Christmas message Tuesday to appeal for peace in conflict zones such as Syria and Yemen, whose populations face some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“My wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity. Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas… Fraternity among persons of different religions,” he said in his traditional “Urbi and Orbi” (To the City and to the World) address in Saint Peter’s Square.

The pontiff said he hoped a truce in conflict-ravaged Yemen would end a devastating war which has killed around 10,000 people since 2015 and pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.

READ ALSO: 43 Killed, Dozens Injured As Gunmen Attack Government Compound In Kabul

“My thoughts turn to Yemen, in the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine,” he said.

The Pope also evoked the war in Syria, from where US President Donald Trump has decided to pull out some 2,000 troops in a controversial decision, arguing that the Islamic State has been defeated.

“May the international community work decisively for a political solution… so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country,” he said.

He also said he hoped for renewed peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians “that can put an end to a conflict that for over 70 years has rent the land chosen by the Lord to show his face of love.”

700 Catholic Clergy Accused Of Sexual abuse In Illinois

 

About 700 clergymen in Illinois have been accused of child sexual assault, a far greater number than the Catholic Church had previously disclosed, the Midwestern US state’s top prosecutor revealed Wednesday.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the Church’s revelations that 185 clergy members were credibly accused of sexual abuse fell short of the number her office has uncovered.

The preliminary results of an investigation that began in August found more than 500 additional priests and clergy members with sexual abuse allegations in the Midwestern state’s six dioceses — a total of at least 685 accused.

In a scathing statement, the attorney general’s office criticized the Church’s handling of the abuse allegations, saying investigations were lacking, and in many cases, law enforcement and child welfare authorities were not notified.

“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said.

She added that the Church had failed to provide “a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois.”

The Illinois investigation was prompted by a sweeping grand jury report in August that revealed credible allegations against more than 300 suspected predator priests and identified over 1,000 victims of child sex abuse covered up for decades by the Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania.

In October, federal authorities for the first time opened an investigation into clergy abuse. Dioceses in the state reported receiving federal grand jury subpoenas to produce documents.

– Shocking and expected –
The Archdiocese of Chicago, the largest of the Illinois dioceses, countered Madigan’s report by insisting that all abuse claims are investigated and reported to authorities.

“Since 2006, we have published the names of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of abuse, and in 2014 we released more than 20,000 documents from these priests’ files,” the archiocese said in a statement.

But Madigan’s office said allegations of abuse have often not been adequately investigated if they are scrutinized at all. Among the reasons for the lack of action were that the accused was deceased or had already resigned.

READ ALSO: Church Will ‘Never Again’ Ignore Abuse Accusations – Pope

“This report is both shocking and exactly what we expected,” Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told AFP.

“We’ve known for a long time that church officials have been ignoring and minimizing allegations of abuse and this report is just yet another proof point that it is a systemic issue, not a highly localized one.”

– Mounting pressure –
Since the state investigation opened, the dioceses have added another 45 clergy members to their official lists of those credibly accused of committing child sexual abuse, according to Madigan’s office.

The attorney general anticipated additional names will be disclosed as her investigation continues.

“Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters,” Madigan said.

The Catholic Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, with widespread allegations of coverups. And public pressure has been mounting on its institutions.

This month, authorities of the Jesuit order overseeing at least 40 US states released the names of more than 240 members who have been credibly accused of abuse — including dozens of priests with multiple allegations.

Jesuits are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, with some 16,000 members worldwide who do not fall directly under the Church’s hierarchy.

They operate 30 colleges and 81 schools in the United States and Canada.

Jesuits release list of 89 US priests accused of sex abuse

Jesuit authorities for 20 US states on Monday released the names of 89 priests with credible allegations of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1950.

The disclosures by the Jesuit provinces of Maryland and USA Midwest are the latest chapter in the ongoing sexual abuse scandal roiling the Catholic Church and come after 153 Jesuits were publicly identified by two other provinces earlier this month.

Maryland released 24 names with allegations dating back to 1950 and USA Midwest released 65 names dating back to 1955. Many of the individuals are deceased, and some were previously publicly known to be accused of sexual assault.

“On behalf of the Midwest Jesuits, I apologize to victim-survivors and their families for the harm and suffering you have endured. Many of you have suffered in silence for decades,” Brian Paulson, head of the USA Midwest province, said in an open letter.

Jesuits are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, with some 16,000 members worldwide. They operate 30 colleges and 81 schools in the United States and Canada.

The names made public Monday included dozens of priests with multiple allegations of abuse who served in educational institutions.

– Decades of abuse, errors dating to 1930s –
The priest with the most recent allegations was Donald McGuire, who died in federal prison in 2017 while serving a 25-year sentence. His was among the names that had been previously publicized.

Numerous men have accused McGuire of molesting them when they were boys. The first allegations dated to the 1950s, when he worked at a Jesuit private high school in Chicago, and went as late as 2005.

“Most of the Jesuits on our list entered religious life from the 1930’s through the early 1960’s. In retrospect, our evaluation of candidates, as well as the training, formation, and supervision of Jesuits, was not adequate,” Paulson said.

He added that the organization had learned from its mistakes, and has improved training for Jesuits and was holding them accountable if abuse allegations are made.

The latest revelations came as religious orders are starting to face similar scrutiny to the rest of the Catholic Church and are embarking on efforts at transparency.

– Lists ‘incomplete’ –
Earlier this month, provinces overseeing Jesuits in more than 20 western, southern and central US states released lists of 153 members accused of child sexual abuse.

The Maryland province’s leader, who is known as the provincial, said Monday’s release was meant to provide transparency and accountability, and that an external audit of the organization’s files would be conducted “to ensure that our previous reviews were both accurate and complete.”

“We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused to victims and their families,” the provincial, Robert Hussey, said in an open letter published on the organization’s website.

“We view the disclosure today of our shameful history as part of our commitment now to preventing abuse.”

A victim’s advocacy group welcomed the disclosures but noted that they came only after sustained public pressure, including from prosecutors.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) criticized the Jesuit order for keeping accused priests’ names secret for decades and called for an independent investigation by law enforcement.

“Too often, lists are released that are incomplete or carefully curated by church officials, and so by inviting an independent investigation, Jesuit officials can demonstrate to parishioners and the public their commitment to transparency and healing,” SNAP said in a statement.

“Such an investigation would be the only way to determine who knew what, when they knew it, and what they chose to do with that information.”

The Catholic Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, with widespread allegations of cover-ups.

In August, a devastating US report on child sex abuse claimed more than 300 “predator” priests abused more than 1,000 minors over seven decades in the state of Pennsylvania.

Church Will ‘Never Again’ Ignore Abuse Accusations – Pope

File photo of Pope Francis 

The Catholic Church will never again treat abuse allegations without “seriousness and promptness”, Pope Francis told the Church’s governing body on Friday.

“The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” the pope said in his annual address to the Roman Curia at the Vatican.

“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes,” the pope said.

“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due.

“That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.”

AFP

Pope Francis To Organise Anti-Paedophilia Summit

Pope Francis 

Pope Francis on Friday revealed the organizing team for a special meeting on the protection of children to be held in February, in response to the pedophilia scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church worldwide.

His hand-picked team is all close associates: the archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna, Father Hans Zollner, US cardinal Blase Cupich and Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias.

Archbishop Scicluna spent 10 years as a Vatican prosecutor investigating cases of pedophilia among the priesthood.

Zollner, a Jesuit priest, is an academic and psychotherapist who has traveled widely as part of his work in child protection. He is already part of the committee of experts advising the pope on the issue.

“The February meeting is unprecedented, and one that shows Pope Francis has made the protection of minors a fundamental priority for the Church,” said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.

“This is about keeping children safe from harm worldwide. Pope Francis wants Church leaders to have a full understanding of the devastating impact that clerical sexual abuse has on victims.”

Two women with senior positions inside the Vatican will also help organize the event and survivors of abuse will have a role, he said. The event will run from February 21 to 24.

“The meeting is primarily one for bishops – and they have much of the responsibility for this grave problem,” said Burke.

Burke was speaking a day after a French priest was handed a two-year jail term for abusing children — and his superior, the former bishop of Orleans, 83-year-old Andre Fort, received a suspended sentence for having covered up the offenses.

The meeting is expected to attract 180 participants, including the presidents of 113 episcopal conferences from around the world.

The Church has had to contend with a wave of scandals involving pedophile priests who have hit the Catholic faith in countries worldwide from Ireland and the United States to Australia.

AFP

Pope And Macron Hold ‘Intense’ Meeting At Vatican

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) smiles to vicar of Rome bishop Angelo De Donatis (R) in the pope’s cathedral, Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on June 26, 2018, at the end of the ceremony where he was named First and Only Honorary Canon of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron held an “intense” meeting with Pope Francis during his first official visit to the Vatican on Tuesday, discussing global issues including the fate of migrants coming to Europe.

The tete-a-tete between the Argentine pontiff and Macron in the Vatican’s ornate library lasted 57 minutes — the longest between Francis and a head of state.

They also discussed secularism, inter-religious dialogue and climate change, the French presidency said in a statement that described a “very free and very intense exchange”.

Macron’s visit with the pope, who has called for “solidarity” with migrants, came as the thorny issue of migration casts deep divisions within the European Union.

After the meeting, Macron said France will be one of six European countries to take in some of the 233 migrants on board the NGO rescue ship Lifeline, which has been stranded for days in the Mediterranean after being turned away by Italy.

The French president earlier had breakfast with Rome’s Community of Sant’Egidio — a charity with ties to the Vatican that plays a role in welcoming migrants, and organising “humanitarian corridors” bringing Syrian refugees to Europe.

The programme, which is open to vulnerable Muslims and Christians alike, is an alternative to dangerous smuggling routes.

– ‘Truly moved’ –
After his meeting with Francis, Macron attended a ceremony where he was made an honorary canon of St John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome.

The tradition dates back to the 15th century when the French state and church were indistinguishable.

The French president said he was “truly moved” by the honour in a speech.

Several of Macron’s predecessors declined to go to the Vatican to accept the title, including socialists Francois Mitterrand and Francois Hollande, in order to avoid associating themselves with religious imagery.

Macron’s decision to attend the ceremony has drawn criticism in France, which is strictly secular under a landmark 1905 law that separated the state from the church.

“I decided to accept this invitation because it belongs to a tradition of harmony and friendship between France and the Vatican to which I am attached”, Macron said in his speech.

Francis and the French president smiled and embraced each other as they left their meeting.

The French president offered the Pope a 1949 edition in Italian of “The Diary of a Country Priest” by French Catholic writer Georges Bernanos.

Francis presented Macron with a bronze medal of Saint Martin, a fourth century symbol of generosity, and the main texts from his papacy.

Giving the medal to Macron, the Pope said it was the “vocation of those in government to protect the poorest”.

After the meeting, Macron said he had met with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday evening, but kept the informal talk discreet out of respect for Vatican protocol.

Past talks between the pope and a president have never exceeded 50 minutes — Francis spoke with former US president Barack Obama for 50 minutes and with his successor Donald Trump for 30 minutes.

Film Shows ‘Fearless’ Pope Taking On Church

German director Wim Wenders arrives on May 13, 2018 for the screening of his film “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France.
Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

There is a killer moment in the new film “Pope Francis — A Man of His Word” when you realise what he is up against.

The Argentine is dressing down the Cardinals and bejewelled princes of the Curia who run the Catholic Church, lacerating them for their greed, back-stabbing and lust for power.

The scandal-hit, Italian-dominated body is full of people leading immoral double lives who “possess a heart of stone and a stiff neck”, he tells them in German director Wim Wenders’ remarkable insight into the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“Pay a visit to the cemeteries” and look at those “who thought they were immortal, immune and indispensable,” Francis urges them in the feature, which premiered late Sunday at the Cannes film festival.

“You see the sharp faces of some of these cardinals who are rich and ambitious,” said Wenders, who interviewed the reforming pontiff over several months for the portrait.

“But you can also see other archbishops thinking, ‘Yes, this is why we elected you.’ As Francis said, you cannot combat the diseases of the world without examining yourself first.”

The picture that emerges of Francis from Wenders’ unprecedented access is of a man determined to radically transform the vast wealthy institution into “a poor church for poor people”.

And Wenders, the maker of such classics as “Wings of Desire”, “Paris, Texas” and “The Buena Vista Social Club”, believes this pontiff has the steeliness to do it.

Enemies digging in 

Many in the Curia “think he is going too fast and too far,” according to Wenders, and have been digging in with traditionalists to resist him.

“But I think the opposite,” said the filmmaker. “I think Francis is stepping on the brakes in order to take them all along.

“Yet also he is fearless. He knows what has to be done and he wants to push it as far as he can knowing that he is not young anymore.”

For Wenders, a lapsed Catholic who rediscovered his faith in a “friendly God” after the death of his doctor father, the 81-year-old is a revolutionary.

“When you look him in the eye you see this is a very loving man who really likes people. He is as honest as a man can be and you see the courage in his eyes.

“His message — that we are equal and we have to treat each other as equals — is why people say he is a communist. We cannot leave people behind in the dust. It is a tough message and he doesn’t hesitate with it.”

Francis is a radical just like the medieval saint from whom he took his name, Wenders argued, “who like him wanted to go back to early Christianity… when the church was an organisation of poor people.”

 Call from the Vatican 

“St Francis of Assisi was also the first ecologist,” said Wenders, who was “amazed” by the depth of the pope’s understanding of climate change and his warning that the global “mania for growth” is threatening mankind.

“That growth is coming at the expense of the poor majority… who are suffering first and worst from climate change,” said Wenders.

The director said the Vatican contacted him out of the blue asking whether he would be interested in talking to the pope.

“I was given carte blanche,” he told AFP, and access to the Vatican’s video archives. “There was no interference whatsoever,” he insisted, despite the film being co-produced by Vatican television.

Wenders said he was also touched by the pope’s deep tolerance of other religions and lifestyles.

“He says don’t try to convert anybody, just try to convince them to be of goodwill and to accept each other. His firm belief is there is no difference between people. That is revolutionary — communists don’t have that message.”

But despite trying to lead by example by living modestly, the pope knows his power is limited. “All he has are his words,” Wenders said.

“Each time he left us after the shoot, he would look into our eyes and ask each of us, ‘Please pray for me.’

“There are a lot of people praying for him, praying that he can do it,” Wenders said.

AFP

Pope Pleads For Nicaragua Violence To End After Protests

Pope Francis In 10 Quotes
ope Francis gestures during a news conference on board of a plane on December 2, 2017, during a flight back from a seven-day trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh. Pope Francis wrapped up a high-stakes Asia tour on December 2 after meeting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in a highly symbolic gesture of solidarity with the Muslim minority fleeing violence in Myanmar. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Pope Francis on Sunday called for an end to the violence which has engulfed Nicaragua following anti-government protests that have seen 11 killed, including a journalist.

The protests erupted in Nicaragua on Wednesday over a proposed pension reform, with violent demonstrations rocking cities across the Central American country.

Francis called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

“I’m worried about what’s been happening in the last few days in Nicaragua, where after a social protest there were battles that have caused deaths,” the pontiff said during the Regina Coeli service at St Peter’s Square on Sunday.

“I express my solidarity with the country, and I join bishops in asking that the violence end, the pointless spilling of blood is avoided and the underlying issues are resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility.”

Nicaraguans have taken to the streets over a proposed change to the pension system that would see workers and employers pay more toward the retirement system.

The reform designed by Daniel Ortega’s government is aimed at settling a $76 million deficit faced by the country’s social security institute.

In a bid to calm the protests — the biggest of his 11-year presidency — Ortega agreed Saturday to speak with the private sector about social security reforms, only to be rebuffed by Nicaragua’s top private-sector business union.

They said there could be no dialogue unless the government “immediately ceases police repression.”

On Saturday local media reported that journalist Miguel Angel Gahona was shot dead by a suspected sniper in the city of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.

Journalists have reportedly faced attacks, been temporarily detained and had their work equipment stolen since the start of the protests. Meanwhile, four independent television outlets were taken off air on Thursday, although only one currently remains closed.

Vatican Revives Pope’s Sexual Abuse Panel

 Pope Francis (L) greeting Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, on June 28, 2017.
HO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO / AFP

 

The Vatican said Saturday it has renewed its anti-paedophile panel as Pope Francis acts to quell the global scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Nine new members were added to the panel, which had come under fire from two high-profile members, former sex abuse victims who quit at what they saw as a lack of reforms and obstruction at the highest level of the Catholic Church.

US Cardinal Sean O’Malley was confirmed as the head of the child protection panel along with seven other incumbent members.

“The newly-appointed members will add to the commission’s global perspective in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” O’Malley said in a statement.

“The Holy Father has ensured continuity in the work of our commission, which is to assist local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm.”

As well as O’Malley, the panel is now made up of eight men and eight women, including victims of abuse, the Vatican said.

It was set up in 2014 shortly after Francis was elected pope, but its work came in for strong criticism last year.

Irishwoman Marie Collins, who was raped by a hospital chaplain at the age of 13, quit the panel in March last year in protest at what she said was the “shameful” blocking of reforms.

Briton Peter Saunders, another sex abuse victim, also left in 2016 after a row over the panel’s handling of allegations of serial abuse by an Italian priest.

The announcement of the revival of the committee came just days after it was revealed that Francis held regular private meetings with people abused by members of the priesthood.

The pope has described the scandal as a “great humiliation” for the Catholic Church.

But he has been attacked for supporting Chilean bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up crimes by a paedophile priest.

AFP

Pope Denounces ‘Indifference’ On First ‘World Day For The Poor’

Pope Francis called on Sunday to fight indifference to poverty on what has been dubbed the first “World Day for the Poor” by the Catholic Church.

Celebrating the event in Rome at a mass attended by about 7,000 poor people at St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope urged people not to ignore poverty by believing that “it’s not my business, it’s the fault of society”.

“We have the talents, we are talented in the eyes of God. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others,” he said.

He added that a lifetime of “doing nothing wrong isn’t enough. Because God isn’t an inspector looking for unstamped tickets”.

To mark the day, Francis is to have lunch with about 1,500 destitute people in the Vatican, while another 2,500 will be fed elsewhere.

Similar initiatives are taking place in other dioceses across Italy and elsewhere in the world.

The pope has often spoken about social inclusion, indirectly criticising governments that do not pay attention to those on the margins of society.

AFP

Al-Azhar’s Imam Meets Pope, Vows To Fight Terrorism

This handout photo taken and released by the Vatican press office Osservatore Romano on November 7, 2017, shows Pope Francis (R) receiving Ahmed Muhammad Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, during a private audience in Vatican.
Handout / OSSERVATORE ROMANO / AFP 

 

The grand imam of Egypt’s famed Al-Azhar institution Ahmed al-Tayeb, one of the Muslim world’s leading religious authorities, on Tuesday met Pope Francis and pledged greater cooperation to fight terrorism.

The spiritual leader of the world’s almost 1.3 billion Catholics in April became the first pope to visit the headquarters of Tayeb.

The grand imam said after the meeting that Islam was facing “a war against itself,” and underscored that Muslims too were “victims of terrorism”.

“It is a cancer which has metastasised to different parts of the world,” and Al-Azhar — of Egypt’s highest institution of Sunni Islam — “is offering its resources and a greater contribution for a permanent collaboration aimed at finding solutions to terrorism,” he told a meeting organised by the Sant’Egidio, a Christian community officially recognised by the Vatican.

Tayeb also evoked his meeting with the pontiff earlier in the day, saying: “We discussed several issues tormenting the world and we sought to … find ways together to reduce the suffering of the poor and the unfortunate.”

He said the pope “has a heart filled with love and a desire that humanity benefits from inter-cultural exchanges.

“I wish to state my conviction of the necessity for a dialogue between religions, between the wise, or we risk falling back into periods of violence and darkness,” he said.

“The last century witnessed two world wars which killed more than 70 million people and those that followed quickly showed how absurd they were and not a drop of blood should have been spilt.”

AFP

No Second Chances For Paedophile Priests, Pope Warns

Francis said he had “learned my lesson” after allowing an Italian bishop to not defrock a priest who had been found guilty of acts of abuse, and who then committed similar offences two years later.

“The abuse of a minor, if it is proven, is sufficient for there to be no possibility of appeal. If the proof is there, the punishment is definitive,” the pope said in improvised comments to his child abuse advisory panel.

“And as for requests for papal pardons, I will not sign anything for these crimes.”

Francis also acknowledged that the Church had been slow to wake up to the scale of the problem of clerical abuse, which has done enormous damage to its standing in many countries.

“The means of resolving the problem are also arriving a bit late,” he said. “That is the reality, the old practice of moving (paedophile priests) from one diocese to the other put people’s conscience to sleep.”

Francis has repeatedly vowed to rid the Church of the scourge of paedophilia through a zero-tolerance approach which his predecessors proved incapable of implementing.

But his credibility on the issue has been hit by the resignation of two members of his advisory panel over opposition to changes from within the Vatican hierarchy.

Victims’ organisations also maintain that the Church remains reluctant to hand paedophile priests over to criminal justice authorities.

AFP