Here’s Why Saudi Arabia Banned The Latest Issue Of National Geographic

While Pope Francis has frequently demonstrated his commitment to improving relations between Christians and Muslims, Saudi Arabia can’t even have him on a magazine.

National Geographic Arabic readers in Saudi Arabia will not be able to get their hands on the latest copy because it has been banned for “cultural reasons.”

The August issue features Pope Francis on the cover accompanied by a story about his reforms at the Vatican that “will dislodge some of the ingrained principles of the followers of the church” – a religious revolution the conservative Saudi government would immediately quell even if it’s on the pages of a magazine.

Though no official statement has been released on the issue, National Geographic’s regional editor-in-chief, Alsaad Omar Al Menhaly, tweeted about the ban.

It translates to: “Dear readers in Saudi Arabia, we apologize that you did not receive August’s magazine. According to the publishing company, the magazine was denied entry for cultural reasons. Chief Editor.”

The ban comes just days after Pope Francis ordered European Catholics to open their doors to refugees most of who hail from embattled Muslim states such as Syria and Afghanistan. And it isn’t the first time the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church demonstrated his commitment to improving relations between Christians and Muslims.

Recommended: Why Pope Francis Is A Pope That An Atheist Can Love

Vatican relations with the Muslim world were going through a rough patch in 2006 when now-retired Pope Benedict XVI said Islam was a violent and irrational religion while quoting a Byzantine emperor.

When Pope Francis’ papacy began in March 2013, Muslims, especially the ones living in Europe, saw hope for better relations with Christianity since he named himself after Francis, the 13th-century saint known for his efforts to reach out to Islam via peaceful dialogue – and the Sovereign of the Vatican City didn’t disappoint.

Soon after taking office, he urged the West to intensify dialogue with Islam.

“…It is not possible to establish true links with God while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam," Francis stated in a sermon to the diplomats in the Vatican's frescoed Sala Regia.

Francis also paid a rare visit to the Blue Mosque in Turkey last year to highlight and honor his commitment to interfaith dialogue.

Considering the aforementioned points, it’s a little awkward how Saudi Arabia, the self-proclaimed heartland of Islam, has banned a magazine featuring a leader who wants to bridge the gap between the Muslim world and the West.

See More: Raised Eyebrows At Pope Francis And Turkish Muslim Leader’s Joint Prayer In Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

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