Top Muslim cleric agrees to meet Pope Benedict XVI

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Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, grand sheik at the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, has agreed to meet Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The sheikh is described as a moderate and is regarded as the highest spiritual authority for nearly 1 billion Sunni Muslims worldwide.

His decision to accept the pope’s invitation was made public by the Vatican press office after a visit to Cairo by Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Vatican’s commission on relations with Muslims. A date for the meeting has not yet been announced.

Benedict has been working hard to improve relations between the Church and the Islamic world since making a speech in Germany in Sept in which he angered Muslims by appearing to equate their religion with violence.