March 11, 2014
Pope Francis 'a friend of the Islamic community'
Argentine Muslims have welcomed the election of Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the head of the Roman Cathoilic Churhc. In an interview with Buenosairesherald.com, Sheij Mohsen Ali and CIRA Secretary General Dr.Sumer Noufouri praised Pope Francis’s “pro-dialogue” nature.
“He always showed himself as a friend of the Islamic community. He visited the At-Tauhid Mosque (located) in the neighborhood of Floresta and the Arab-Argentine Ali Ibn Abi Talib School strengthening our relations”, the Director of the House for the Diffusion of Islam Sheik Mohsen Ali said and described a personal anecdote with the man that has now become “the Pope of the end of the world.”
“In Suipacha Street, at the headquarters of the Argentine Episcopacy, his humility drew my attention. I went there with Sheij Abdul Karim Paz. There was a small wicker chair and some soft armchairs. He took the little chair for himself and left us the comfortable armchairs,” the Sheij Mohsen Ali recalled now that Catholics around the world learn that their religious leader used to take the subway while being a Cardinal in Buenos Aires.
More sensitive issues, political arguments, also seem to prove the nature of the two times president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference. “By the time of the 2006 Lebanon War, I held an argument with one of his assistants. He received me and understood my position. He acted like a friend, not a personal friend because we did not have the time to deepen our relation, but he has been a friend," the Muslim leader affirmed.
Regarding the tensions between Pope Francis and the administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kircher, Sheij Mohsen Ali called for dialogue. “Everyone knows the position Bergoglio has about the government of Cristina, a model I support. Channels of dialogue must come up. As in life, we all have lights and shadows. I wish Francis becomes even better and shadows can dissipate”, one of the most renowned voices among Argentina’s Islamic community hoped for.
“With joy and expectation of strengthening dialogue between religions”, Secretary General of the Islamic Center of the Republic of Argentina (CIRA) Dr. Sumer Noufouri told Buenosairesherald.com to resume how news about Bergoglio’s appointment were received by the institution he presides.
Considering ties between the CIRA and now Pope Francis “excellent”, Dr. Noufouri explained that the one-decade relation has helped to build Christian-Muslim dialogue, something “really significant in the history of monotheistic relations in Argentina”. A “joint work”, CIRA head added, “that we have never given up on”.
Mario Jorge Bergoglio is a “respectful, pro-dialogue person who knows the Islam”, the CIRA Secretary General said and, just like Sheij Mohsen Ali. he chose an anecdote to picture the personality of the elected pontiff.
“When Bergoglio attended the CIRA to have lunch with the board, he told us that in Rome, when he talked about the relation he had with Muslims saying that he came to the CIRA and that we congratulated him on Christmas, they just could not believe it, it shocked them,” Dr. Noufouri said and affirmed that “Argentina is a model of dialogue and coexistence that, God willing, could be exported to the world.”