Europe

Pope meets with Al-Azhar imam in sign of renewed relations

  • Pope Francis delivers his blessing during the Angelus noon prayer he celebrated from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 22, 2016. Francis, addressing tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, expressed his hopes for an humanitarian summit opening the next day in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis delivers his blessing during the Angelus noon prayer he celebrated from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, May 22, 2016. Francis, addressing tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, expressed his hopes for an humanitarian summit opening the next day in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Card. Jean-Louis Tauran receives Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, as he arrives for his audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace, at Vatican, Monday, May 23, 2016. (Maurizio Brambatti/ANSA via AP Photo) ITALY OUT

    Card. Jean-Louis Tauran receives Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, as he arrives for his audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace, at Vatican, Monday, May 23, 2016. (Maurizio Brambatti/ANSA via AP Photo) ITALY OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • Card. Jean-Louis Tauran receives Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, left, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, as he arrives for his audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace, at Vatican, Monday, May 23, 2016. (Maurizio Brambatti/ANSA via AP Photo) ITALY OUT

    Card. Jean-Louis Tauran receives Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, left, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, as he arrives for his audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace, at Vatican, Monday, May 23, 2016. (Maurizio Brambatti/ANSA via AP Photo) ITALY OUT  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis is meeting with the grand imam of Al-Azhar in a sign of improved relations between the Vatican and the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning.

The meeting comes five years after the Cairo-based institute froze talks with the Vatican to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year's bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people. Since then, Islamic attacks on Christians in the region have only increased but the Vatican and Al-Azhar have nevertheless relaunched ties, with a Vatican delegation visiting Cairo in February.

After the audience Monday, Al-Azhar's chief imam, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, will travel to Paris to open a Muslim-Catholic conference on East-West relations.