13 December 2018, The Tablet

The important role Pope Francis is playing in renewing dialogue with Islam.

The important role Pope Francis is playing in renewing dialogue with Islam.

Nine days after his election to the Chair of St Peter, Pope Francis met with the ambassadors to the Holy See in the Sala Regia inside the Apostolic Palace and offered them a personal guide to what would be the geopolitical, or ad extram agenda of his pontificate.

“One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people,” the Pope told the diplomats. “It is not possible to establish true links with God while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions; I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam.”

Work to build relations with the Muslim world has been close to the top of Francis’ agenda, and the nurturing of closer Muslim-Christian relations is something that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, describes as a top priority.

The importance of re-energising the dialogue with Islam will be on display when Francis becomes the first Pope to travel to the Arabian peninsula on 3 February, when he will fly to Abu Dhabi to attend an interfaith gathering. While in the United Arab Emirates, on the morning of 5 February, “Francesco di Arabia” will celebrate a historic public Mass for the Christians who live and work in the country. And the following month, he will travel to a second Muslim-majority country, when he visits Morocco.

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