VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is scheduled to meet Wednesday with four British imams two weeks after the London extremist attack, part of his effort to encourage Muslim leaders who renounce using religion to justify violence.
The audience was scheduled long before the March 22 attack, in which a man mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three, before fatally stabbing a policeman on the grounds of Parliament.
The head of the British Muslim Forum, Muhammad Shahid Raza, said in an interview Tuesday that the pope's support and message of solidarity after the attack "strengthened our position that we, like other communities, condemn all terrorist activities."
Francis will try to further the cause later this month when he visits Al Azhar university in Cairo, Sunni Islam's main center of learning.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster, is accompanying the imams to the Vatican. He said the aim of the visit was to help promote Muslim leaders who denounce violence carried out in God's name.
The Muslim community slowly is gaining the confidence to speak out and condemn Islamic extremism, Nichols said.
"That is the voice that has to be heard to counter the rather more undifferentiating, unappreciative and even hostile voices that view Islamic people in Britain as somehow alien and unwelcome," he said.