Skip to main content
Blog post

Religion: l'élection du pape François, une bonne nouvelle pour le monde musulman?

March 21, 2013

French Article Translation of the Week

"Religion: l'élection du pape François, une bonne nouvelle pour le monde musulman?"

"Après les propos polémiques de Benoît XVI sur l'islam, l'élection d'un nouveau pape, le 13 mars, suscite un certain espoir dans le monde musulman."

"After the controversial remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI on Islam, the election of a new pope on March 13 raises some hope in the Muslim world."

This article has been translated from French. Click here to read the original on version onJeuneAfrique.

The election of a new pope raised many expectations in the Muslim world about improving relations with the Vatican. The Turkish Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which includes 57 countries, expressed "strong hope that the relations between Islam and Christianity become cordial and marked by sincere friendship. (...) In this historical moment, the OIC renews a call made eight years ago for reconciliation between Islam and Christianity," says a message in the organization based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"We hope for better relations with the Vatican after the election of the new pope, for the good of all mankind", declared Mahmoud Azab, adviser to the grand imam of interreligious dialogue, Al-Azhar (the largest Sunni theological center), Ahmad al-Tayyeb. He suggested, however, that the new leader of the Catholic Church would be judged progressively. "When it appears that a new direction has been taken, we will return to the dialogue with the Vatican that had been suspended in early 2011," he said.

Mosque Visit

In 2006, a visit from Benedict XVI in Regensburg (southern Germany) in which he appeared to associate Islam with violence, caused protests in Muslim countries. The pontiff had tried to fix this misstep by visiting the Sultan Ahmet mosque in Istanbul. It was the second official entry of a pope in a mosque in papal history. Dialogue with Al-Azhar was resumed in 2009, before being interrupted again after a call from the Pope to protect Christian minorities, following a suicide attack against a church in Alexandria, Egypt, on the night of December 31 2010. Al-Azhar had seen in these statements from Eastern Christian "repeated attacks against Islam."

"A restoration of good relations between the Muslim world and the Vatican depends on the personality of the new pope, his thinking and his vision for reconciliation between religions and peoples," said Ali Bakr, an expert on Islamist movements from the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Salafism and Dialogue

Since the uprisings of the Arab Spring in 2011, the Christians of the East, including Egypt, have expressed strong fears about the spread of Salafist Islam, which advocates a rigorous and strict application of Sharia (Islamic law). Shaaban Abdel Alim, leader of the main party of the Egyptian obedience, al-Nour, however, assured during the aftermath of the election of Pope Francis: "As Salafists, we are not against dialogue (with the Vatican). On the contrary we welcome it."

Georges Fahmi, a confession researcher at the Coptic Centre for Political Studies in Cairo Al-Badaël (alternatives), said that the new pope should "uphold common values of Islam and Christianity" to promote "a return to dialogue." Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, the Copts, within which the vast majority is Orthodox but only a small portion is linked to the Church of Rome.

Related Program

Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and US-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial US-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in US-Africa relations.    Read more