Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Chairman of the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue at the Vatican, visited Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in his office in Riyadh on Wednesday.
Following a flurry of meetings between senior Saudi figures and representatives of various Christian traditions in recent months, the pair met in Al-Yamamah Palace. Also in attendance was Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud, Minister of Interior; Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa; and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir.
During the meeting, the leaders discussed the important role of people in religious or cultural groups in renouncing violence, extremism and terrorism to help achieve global security and stability.
Cardinal Tauran visited Riyadh-based Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology on Tuesday. The organisation, also known as Etidal, aims is to expose, combat and refute extremist ideology. Etidal is Arabic for “moderation”. The centre was established in 2017 and is the cooperative effort of more than 55 countries.
Cardinal Tauran said: “Etidal has a mission and a vision. The centre is very wise to analyse the causes of extremism. Most of the time, extremism is provoked by injustice.”
Saudi Arabia has seen a push for a more moderate Islam in recent years. Its leaders aim to promote a more modern image of the kingdom with the belief that it will be easier to build trade and investment relationships with other countries. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has loosened social restrictions, which involved scaling back the role of religious police.
During a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury in London last month, the Crown Prince promised to promote interfaith dialogue and the flourishing of all faiths as part of his domestic reforms.
Whilst this meeting was the first between the current Saudi leader and a Catholic official, King Salman’s predecessor, his brother King Abdullah, met Pope Benedict in the Vatican in 2007.