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VATICAN CITY – 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.