Pope and Muslim Leader Embrace in UN Buffer Zone

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NICOSIA, Cyprus, JUNE 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Saturday in Nicosia Benedict, XVI met with an important figure among Cypriot Muslims, Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi al-Haqqani, 89, spiritual leader of a Sufi movement, and participant in interreligious dialogue.

The brief meeting took place outside the apostolic nunciature before the Pope went to celebrate Mass in the Church of the Holy Cross.

The two religious leaders met along the "Green Line," the U.N. buffer zone, which, since the Turkish invasion of 1974, divides the Turkish Cypriot community and the Greek Cypriot community.

According to a Vatican Radio report, the Sufi leader lives behind the church in the north of Cyprus, and came to greet the Pontiff. He apologized for sitting down.

"I am very old," Nazim said.

"I am very old, too," the Pope responded.

Nazim then presented Benedict XVI with an ornate cane, a plaque inscribed with the Arabic word for peace and a Muslim rosary. The Pontiff, for his part, offered Nazim a medallion. They then embraced in a gesture of fraternal affection.

At the end of the meeting Nazim asked Benedict XVI to pray for him.

"I will certainly do so," the Pope answered. "Let's pray for each other."