ROME – A delegation of leaders of the Italian Muslim community visited Pope Francis on Wednesday, extending an invitation to the Pope to visit Rome’s great mosque, believed to be the largest mosque in the western world.
“Your Holiness, it is our honor to meet you and recognize your moral and spiritual leadership. We are honored to invite you to the Islamic Cultural Center,” the delegation was quoted as saying by ROME REPORTS TV News Agency.
The delegation included the imam Yahya Pallavicini from COREIS (The Islamic Community of Italy) and Abdellah Redouane, the director of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Italy.
The Mosque of Rome is one of the biggest mosques in the world. It’s also the seat of the Italian Islamic Cultural Center.
Pope Francis gave a positive response to the invitation.
“It would be a great pleasure to visit you also, because it would be a great sign of our brotherhood.”
The group gave the Pope a cloth with the 99 names for Allah in Arabic. The first, they explained, meant “mercy.” In turn, he gave them small medallions.
After the visit, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope will “study the invitation, and come to a decision,” but added that he “would be cautious about a date.”
Pallavicini told the Italian news agency SIR the meeting was “very positive and friendly.”
He added that the Pope “referred to rights that must be reciprocated between Christians and Muslims” and which must be the “foundation of brotherhood, of friendship and of serious cooperation.”
He said he was “confident” the Pope would agree to visit the enormous mosque “in this Year of Mercy.”
Pallavicini said he hoped it would be of “very significant spiritual meaning for all citizens in Rome, in Italy and in the world and I would say to all believers, in particular Christians and Muslims in Italy and Rome and throughout the world. This is what we’re working for and so we hope.”
The visit to Rome’s Great mosque would is the fourth for Pope Francis to a mosque.
In his recent trip to Africa, he visited Bangui’s Central Mosque. He has also visited the Blue Mosque in Turkey.
It would also be the ninth for a pope to visit a mosque after John Paul II was the first to follow this tradition when he visited Umayyad Mosque in Damascus in May 2001.