Friday, 26 April, 2019

Pope Francis Delivers First Papal Mass On Arabian Peninsula

Pope Francis arrives in Abu Dhabi for historic Gulf visit, after condemning Yemen war Pope condemns Yemen war, few hours before landing in UAE
Leonard Rios | 06 February, 2019, 08:57

The Pope's visit to the UAE is to highlight the little-known Catholic community in the nation.

In spite of attempts by extremists on both sides to drive us apart, people from various religious backgrounds in Europe and the Middle East manage to look beyond the rhetoric and focus on what unites them.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 05: Worshippers wait for the arrival of Pope Francis to celebrate Mass at Zayed Sport City on February 5, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

In a homily on Tuesday, he turned to the tens of thousands of migrant workers living in the Emirates.

The Pope noted that numerous UAE's Catholics "live far from home, missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future".

The Pope's visit to the UAE "sends a message to the whole world that the Arab region, the centre of the three monotheistic faiths, whose people have lived in harmony and peace for centuries, is unlike the often invoked image of extremism and terrorism", he said.

Pope Francis' trip has been warmly welcomed by Filipino and Indian Catholics among the UAE's huge migrant workforce.

The UAE is home to around one million expatriate Catholics, while another one million Catholics are believed to live in other countries in the region.

Asian nationals makeup about 65 percent of the population and are crucial to all sectors in the Gulf state, from construction to services and hotels.

In his homily, delivered in Italian and translated into Arabic with English subtitles on giant screens, Francis made a direct reference to the sufferings many endure.

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Before Mass, the leader of the world's Catholics circled the stadium in his popemobile, waving to the crowd as it responded it cheers and chants of support.

Another 120,000 were gathered outside, watching via video link on large screens. This is being organised by the UAE Council of Elders where the pontiff will be projected as the "star of religous tolerance".

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Monday gifted the pope a deed for the plot of land on which the first church in the UAE was built.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis will hold a Holy Mass at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to be attended by more than 135,000 people.

The conference and the pope's appearance are all part of the Emirates' Year of Tolerance and its effort to show its openness to other faiths.

All religious leaders had a "duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war", he told the interfaith meeting. "Its fateful consequences are before our eyes", he said, naming Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Yemen is the scene of what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, triggered by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies in a war between the government and Huthi rebels.

He called on Muslims in the Middle East to "embrace" and welcome local Christian communities.

It's the brainchild of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islam learning that trains clerics and scholars from around the world.

The two leaders called for "freedom of belief", the "promotion of a culture of tolerance", the "protection of places of worship" and "full citizenship" rights for minorities.

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