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Rome Reports

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Sunni Islam leader meets with Pope Francis for third time

That's how friendly the encounter was between the pope and the Gran Imam of al-Azhar University, the most important Sunni Islam center that educates its intellectuals.

“I welcome you.”

The message of this meeting is the warmth of the conversation and gestures between both religious leaders.

“I'm sorry I'm not able to speak Italian to express what I feel.”

The pope gave him a medallion with the peace angel and the medal from his fifth year as pontiff. 

“It's the medal from the fifth year of my pontificate. I have dedicated it to persecuted immigrants.”

Ahmed Muhammad al-Tayyib frequently asks for Christians and Muslims to work together against terrorism, poverty and disease. In Egypt, he thanked Pope Francis for reminding that terrorists are not good Muslims. 

Relations with the Vatican haven't always been good, though. In 2011, al-Tayyib ended the dialogue in protest of statements Benedict XVI made about the discrimination of Christians in Egypt, which in turn also upset Coptic Christians.

The man in charge of building bridges was Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who accompanied him at the Vatican. 

"My friend...”

After the official meeting, Pope Francis and the Gran Imam moved to the pope's residence, where they continued the encounter in a more informal way.