Cardinal Dolan last week hosted Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League, for a convivial meeting in his residence and a tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where they prayed together at the front of the altar.
“To have him here in the cathedral, and to pray with him, has been a great gift,” the cardinal said in late morning remarks April 29 to media representatives gathered in the cathedral’s Lady Chapel.
Citing Dr. Al-Issa’s work with Pope Francis, Cardinal Dolan reiterated their common plea that “violent extremism in the name of religion is blasphemy.” The pope received Dr. Al-Issa at the Vatican in September 2017.
Dr. Al-Issa, in his own remarks, expressed his “pleasure visiting this great place,” and for the gathering “working together for humanity and bringing peace to the whole world.”
Later the same day, Dr. Al-Issa and Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and senior rabbi of Park Avenue Synagogue, signed an agreement to unite their efforts for the protection of religious sites around the world.
The meeting took place a little more than a week after the suicide bombings at three churches, including two Catholic churches, and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which killed more than 250 people and injured more than 500. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings. Just two days earlier, a gunman yelling anti-Semitic slurs opened fire in a synagogue in Poway, Calif., killing one and injuring three others.
In the Lady Chapel, Dr. Al-Issa, 53, went on to express his appreciation to Cardinal Dolan for the “important topics” he addressed related to “love, harmony and tolerance among religions.”
“Our world is in dire need of such meetings and discussions,” said Dr. Al-Issa, who added he was aware of the “important role” the Catholic Church plays in fostering such conversations.
Dr. Al-Issa said, “we need to see more such meetings,” like the one with Cardinal Dolan, “and we’ll see more goodness and benefit to humanity.”
He said he offered “the greatest appreciation and respect to the Vatican and the Church.”
Cardinal Dolan, in comments made during the meeting at his residence, said Pope Francis places a high priority on the “important friendship” he has with “the Muslim world,” citing the pope’s recent visit to Morocco.
“The world needs such a man,” Dr. Al-Issa said of the pontiff.
The discussion between Cardinal Dolan and Dr. Al-Issa also touched on other topics including the recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which Dr. Al-Issa said he has visited. Both men bridged the language barrier with good humor, with the cardinal asking if Dr. Al-Issa had sampled the pasta when he visited Rome. Dr. Al-Issa replied that he had before adding that he also enjoyed the pizza.
Cardinal Dolan called it “a blessing of my work that many religious leaders come to see me, and they also see their people in New York.”
“Everybody should go and visit you, such an inspiring person,” with an “encouraging” manner,” Dr. Al-Issa said.
Once during their meeting, and again in the cathedral, Dr. Al-Issa invited the cardinal to visit him in Saudi Arabia, where he formerly served as minister of justice.
The cardinal agreed to the invitation, saying he would prefer to visit the Middle Eastern country when the weather in New York gets colder.