PARIS (QHA) - A group of 10 French imams will meet Pope Francis on Wednesday in the latest sign of rapprochement between the Vatican and the Muslim world, informs Arab News. The meeting has been organized by Marek Halter, a French author known for promoting religious tolerance who has organized similar initiatives in the past. "I thought: Here's a pope who can do what the previous pope did not do. He can reconcile Christianity with Islam," Halter said. Relations between the Vatican and the Muslim world were strained in recent years and Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's Cairo-based highest seat of learning, broke off ties with Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI for what it regarded as controversial statements. Benedict had strongly called for protection of Christian minorities after a January 2011 suicide bombing at a church in Egypt. But Francis has made several conciliatory gestures. In August he called for "mutual respect" between Christianity and Islam. The public meeting is due to take place in Saint Peter's Square in Rome at 0830 GMT during the weekly papal audience, and will last some 15 minutes. Hassen Chalghoumi, a Muslim community leader in the Paris suburb of Drancy who is in favor of France's burqa ban, will be among those traveling to Rome aboard the plane of Tunisian film producer Tarak Ben Ammar, a friend of Halter's.

QHA