Pope Names Islamic Expert to Vatican Interreligious Dialogue Council

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI named a Spanish expert in Islam to the No. 2 post at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Verona Father Miguel Ayuso Guixot, 60, was appointed June 30 to replace Italian Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata as secretary of the council. The 75-year-old archbishop was a longtime Vatican nuncio and had served as secretary of the interreligious council since 2002. He retired for reasons of age.

Father Ayuso, a professor of Islamic studies, had served as director of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, based in Rome, since 2006.

He is the first expert in Islam to be named to the top level of the council since the former council president, Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, was named nuncio to Egypt and the Vatican’s delegate to the Arab League in 2006.

Born in Seville, Spain, June 17, 1952, Father Ayuso was ordained a priest with the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus in 1982 and served as a missionary in Sudan and Egypt until 2002.

With degrees from both the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies and the University of Grenada, Father Ayuso started teaching Islamic studies in 1989, first in Khartoum, Sudan, then in Cairo and in Rome at the pontifical Arabic institute.

He has taken part in several interreligious meetings in Africa and has published a number of works on the church and Islam.

He is fluent in Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish.

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