The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) met with Pope Francis on November 3. The meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, which brings together 200 leaders from different religions.
The delegation was accompanied by Michel Dubost, the Bishop of Evry and president of the Council for Interreligious Relations of the Bishops’ Conference of France, and Vincent Feroldi, director of National Services for Islam Relations (SNRM).
It’s not the first time French Muslim leaders have met with the current Pope. A delegation was received by the Vatican in January 2015, which coincided with the the Paris attacks. The most recent meeting follows the terror attack in July, when a priest, Jacque Hamel, was murdered in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
The meeting came with “highly symbolic significance, to send a message of harmony and fraternity,” said the CFCM president.
Pope Francis will receive a delegation from the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) in the Vatican on November 3.
The five members representing the CFCM include President Anwar Kbibech, the three Vice-Presidents and the Secretary General of the organization, Abdallah Zekri. They will meet with the Pope in a private audience after meeting with the prelate in charge of relations with Islam, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
“I am very happy to meet the Pope because he is a man of dialogue and a man of peace,” Adballah Zekri said.
This meeting was reportedly organized on behalf of the Vatican by the French cardinals to strengthen interreligious dialogue between the two faiths, especially in the aftermath of a number of terror attacks. The French cardinals told the CFCM that the Pope had particularly appreciated the institution’s firm positions following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel on July 26 in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two terrorists belonging to the Islamic State.
The CFCM delegation will travel to Rome on November 2 for a reception at France’s embassy in Rome. On November 3, they will meet with the Vatican Cardinal in charge of relations with Islam, followed by the private audience with Pope Francis.
France has been particularly hard hit by attacks from Islamic terrorists. Besides the execution of Father Hamel, militants of the Islamic State have carried out two major attacks in Paris, as well as the slaughter of 84 civilians in the south of France as they celebrated Bastille Day.
The Vatican called on Muslim leaders to condemn “without any ambiguity” the brutality of jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq “that no cause, and certainly no religion, could justify.” Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, responded.
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue highlighted in a statement that the situation of Christians and members of the Yazidi community requires “a clear and courageous position on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims.” It stated: “Everyone must unanimously and unambiguously condemn these crimes and denounce the use of religion to justify them.”
Echoing the Vatican, the Great Mufti Chawki Allam, who represents the highest religious authority in Egypt, stated that the Islamic State is “an extremist and bloodthirsty group and is a danger to Islam and Muslims, tarnishing their image, shedding blood and spreading corruption.”
Boubakeur also responded: “I hope that Muslim countries can leave behind their hesitation and cold indifference concerning the massacres of Christians and of Yazidis. It’s a case where Muslims must not be silent, it’s my personal belief.” According to Boubakeur, “Muslims are still not in a phase where they express themselves, they are in situations that may explain, but not excuse, their relative lack of expression about the work of radicals.”