ASSOCIATION OF PROGRESSIVE MUSLIMS OF CANADA
APMC DELEGATION MEETS POPE FRANCIS ON OCTOBER 24, 2018
Written by Yumna Siddiqi
Over the past few years President Mobeen Khaja became close friends with His Excellency Luigi Bonazzi, the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada. Soon after, it became his vision to send a group of youth and members of the Association to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis in the Vatican.
Over the past year specifically, the Association under the guidance of President Khaja along with the tremendous support of His Excellency Luigi Bonazzi, organized a trip to the Vatican. The invitation was extended to members of the APMC, its Advisory Board, and close supporters. It was also extended to youth from across Canada in the form of an essay competition. In all, the APMC formed a delegation of nearly 30 participants to travel to the Vatican.
On Wednesday October 24, 2018, the APMC delegation attended the Vatican. Start to end, the experience was extraordinary. After passing through security, the APMC delegation was ushered into seats near the front of the Papal Audience. Our presence was announced and acknowledge during the address by His Holiness Pope Francis.
We then received the opportunity of a lifetime. As the address ended, we were invited, led by President Khaja to come down to the steps in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. We were the second delegation in line. His Holiness Pope Francis came towards our group and we received such a warm welcome. His Holiness Pope Francis took time to speak to each member of the delegation, accepting various letters, and freely gave his blessings. As he continued his greetings, at a point, in a moment that could only be described as awe inspiring, and truly reflective of His Holiness Pope Francis’ kind and warm spirit, he said to the group “Please pray for me”. As all things our meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis ended shortly after, as he moved on to other delegations.
The next day, Thursday October 25, 2018, the APMC delegation continued on with its work. In the morning, we met with His Excellency Bishop Miguel Ayuso who is Titular Bishop of Luperciana, and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (PCID). His Excellency Bishop Ayuso spoke to the delegation about the creation of the centre, its purposes to work within the global village in a world where religious institutions are constantly being called on to be progressive, and recent outreach they have been able to accomplish. His Excellency Bishop Ayuso iterated a commonality between the centre and the APMC to promote dialogue of respect and friendship with a message of peace and congratulated the APMC on its achievements.
Our second meeting of the day was at Pontificio Istituto di Studi Arabi e d’Islamistica (PISAI). The institute originally began in Tunisia as a way for traveling Priests to learn to live harmoniously within the Islamic culture. We were informed the institute now hosts numerous students from around the world, who are selected by their local parishes to attend in order to learn, Italian, and classical Arabic, in order to gain a better understanding of the Quran as well as its accompanying texts. The institute has three publications as well as consults with various organizations that deal within the Islamic diaspora.
Our final meeting of the day was with Ms. Deborah Gyapong, and Ms. Marcella Damiani. Ms. Gyapong is a journalist with the Canadian Catholic News, covering primarily Catholic and Evangelical newspapers. She interviewed various members of the APMC delegation on their perspective having met His Holiness Pope Francis.
Ms. Damiani is the Political Affairs Officer for the Embassy of Canada to the Holy See and posted a story on Twitter.
Here are some photos from the event: