By FRANCIS X. ROCCA
c. 2011 Religion News Service
VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has reaffirmed its commitment to dialogue with the Muslim world, despite an Egyptian university’s suspension of talks to protest statements by Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, on Saturday (Jan. 29) told the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that dialogues remain ongoing.
“For the moment, all our appointments remain valid, including the one for February with our partners from Cairo,” Tauran said.
The Islamic Research Center of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious religious university in the Sunni Muslim world, suspended talks with the Vatican on Jan. 20 to protest “Pope Benedict’s repeated criticism of Islam and his unjustified claim that Copts are persecuted in Egypt and the Middle East.”
On Jan. 2, Benedict denounced the “vile and murderous” New Year’s Day killing of at least 21 people by a car bomb outside a Christian Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt.
The pope mentioned the attack again, along with other killings of Christians in the Middle East, on Jan. 10, when he called on “governments of the region to adopt … effective measures for the protection of religious minorities.”
Tauran said that a “careful reading” of Benedict’s words, which “appealed to universal values,” could “help to dissipate misunderstandings.”