Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, al-Azhar, said Thursday it was freezing all dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church over what it called Pope Benedict’s repeated insults toward Islam.

Benedict this month condemned attacks on churches that killed dozens of people in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria, saying they showed the need to adopt effective measures to protect religious minorities.

His remarks followed a New Year bombing outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that left 23 people dead and dozens injured and prompted demonstrations by both Christians and Muslims against sectarian violence.

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