Pope Francis met four British imams at the Vatican today, two weeks after the Westminster terrorist attack. The meeting was part of the Pope’s effort to encourage Muslim leaders who renounce using religion to justify violence.
The audience was scheduled long before the March 22 attack, in which a man mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three, before fatally stabbing a policeman on the grounds of Parliament.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, accompanied Moulana Muhammad Shahid Raza, Moulana Ali Raza Rizvi, Moulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra to the Vatican. As well as the papal audience, the delegation also met Cardinal Tauran at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
Pope Francis told the imams that listening to each other was essential for the common future of humanity as we walk together in our shared lives.
“This is a historic moment when the two biggest religions in the world, Christians and Muslims, must come together in unity and solidarity for peace,” Moulana Muhammad Shahid Raza said.
Moulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi added: “I was deeply moved by the audience with Pope Francis. I could see the sincerity and love in his eyes as he offered words of encouragement to all of us as we came together in unity.
“This is an important meeting offering hope for everyone, regardless of religion. There is a common humanity to all of us. Some seek to divide people, religions, east versus west, but there is no east or west; there is just our common humanity as we seek a peaceful future for all based on justice and compassion.”
Cardinal Nichols said he and the imams “draw great inspiration from the Pope’s leadership and his encouragement to walk together on the road of profound spiritual dialogue.”
The cardinal said: “I also hope that this moment will help the voice of authentic Islam to be heard clearly. We look forward to our continuing promotion of collaboration at a local level at the service of all in society.”
Following the Papal Audience and the meetings in the Pontifical Council, the delegation visited the UK Embassy to the Holy See.