Reliving the encounter between St Francis and the Sultan in the Great Mosque of Rome

Christians and Muslims together, sharing a fraternal moment: this is the spirit that inspired the event on 27 June in the Grand Mosque of Rome, entitled “The Dates of Mary. Reliving the meeting of St Francis with Sultan Malek al-Kamel”. The meeting, which the Minister General also attended, was organised by the Grand Mosque of Rome itself and the Pontifical International Marian Academy (whose representatives were received a few days ago in audience by the Pope in the Vatican).

“The event is part of a series of meetings deepening the dialogue between us Franciscans, as Christians, and the Muslim world, particularly here in Rome,” says Minister General Br Massimo Fusarelli.

The Minister explained that the title of the day, “‘Mary’s Dates”, recalls a Muslim tradition found in the Koran and also found in the Proto-gospel of James: “On the flight into Egypt, Mary, under the shade of a palm tree, sees a date and the palm tree bends towards her, a miraculous event that recalls the care that the Lord has for Mary and the care that Mary has for her child Jesus”.

The afternoon of fraternity opened with a guided tour of the Grand Mosque, where participants were welcomed by the Imam of the mosque, Nader Akkad. Then a conference was held in an adjoining room, where dialogue and the encounter between Christians and Muslims were discussed, particularly recalling the 1219 meeting between St Francis and Sultan Malek Al-Kamel.

“Religious representatives and lecturers took the floor,” the Minister continued, “including two lecturers of Islamic religion who went on to discuss the presence of ` for promotion and reflection.

Speakers included: Abdellah Redouane, Secretary General of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Italy – Grand Mosque of Rome; Stefano Cecchin, President of the Pontifical Academia Mariana Internationalis and of the Muslim-Christian Marian Commission – CMMC; Nader Akkad, Imam of the Mosque and Co-President-Founder of the CMMC; Agustin Hernandez, Rector of the Pontifical University Antonianum-PUA; Layla Mustapha Ammar, Lebanese Islamologist and CMMC; Giuseppe Buffon, Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the PUA; Rosanna Maryam Sirignano, Lecturer in Arabic Language and Islamic Studies, CMMC; Daniela del Gaudio, Lecturer at the Seraphicum and PAMI Councillor; Francesco Zecca, Oikos Project Manager and coordinator JPIC Friars Minor Italy and Albania – CMMC. The meeting, which took place in a fraternal atmosphere of listening and sharing, was concluded by sharing dates and coffee.

B.G.