Two ‘old men’, in a brief and little noticed exchange on a distant island, show the way to get along.

The Roman Catholic pontiff slipped away to a meeting with an Islamic leader, to share some mutual goodwill.

Pope Benedict held a surprise meeting with a Turkish Cypriot Islamic leader from the divided island on Saturday, underscoring his view that inter-religious dialogue should be used as an inspiration for reunion.

Benedict had a brief encounter with Sheikh Nazim, the 88-year-old head of the Islamic Sufi Naqshbandi sect based in northern Cyprus, the Vatican said…

“I am happy to come here to visit a great man …. may Allah grant him a good life here and hereafter,” Nazim told reporters as he arrived at the Church complex which has served as the residence for the pope during his three-day trip…

“I am happy … I hope that despite our faults our hearts are moving in the same direction,” said Nazim…

I’m glad Reuters noticed, and ran this, but I like the VIS account even better.

The brief meeting took place outside the apostolic nunciature, before the Holy Father’s Mass in the church of the Holy Cross. Sheikh Al-Haquani explained how he lived in northern Cyprus and had come especially to greet the Pontiff. According to Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., the sheikh had excused himself for awaiting the Pope seated. “I am very old”, he said, to which the Pope replied, “I am old too”.

Sheikh Al-Haquani gave the Pope a cane, a plaque with the word “peace” written in Arabic and a Muslim rosary. For his part, the Pope gave him a medal of his pontificate. The two men then exchanged an embrace. Before separating, the sheikh asked the Pope to pray for him, to which the Pope replied: “Of course I will, we will pray for one another”.

Sweet.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....