Egypt’s Sunni al-Azhar Mosque has called for better ties with the Catholic church in the Vatican, just one day after a conclave elected a new pope to replace recently retired Pope Benedict XVI.
Adviser to al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, Mahmoud Azab, has released a statement congratulating Pope Francis and the 1.2 billion Catholics currently celebrating the election of the church's first Latin American leader.
Pope Francis was born in Argentina.
"We hope for better relations between us,” he said. “We will resume dialogue as soon as we have seen a difference in attitude.”
Azab claimed ties had been broken off in early 2011 after a “lack of understanding” displayed by the Catholic Church.
"We welcome the new pope because he comes from from Latin America, where the public are as religious as us here in the Middle East.”
The al-Azhar adviser called for cooperation between the two religious institutions to end interfaith discrimination.
"We hope the new Vatican will defend all those who are persecuted and mistreated throughout the world, including in the Middle East – with no discrimination between Christians and Muslims," he said in a statement on Thursday.
"Human dignity is one and the same - as enshrined in the Koran.”