Published: Wed, February 06, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Pope Francis' historic visit to UAE to highlight religious freedom

Pope Francis' historic visit to UAE to highlight religious freedom

In his first public interaction with the Muslim, Christian and catholic religous leaders in UAE on Monday, Pope took a dig at Donald Trump by warning against the "building of walls" in reference to the Mexico wall which the US President has pledged to raise.

Francis, the first pontiff to set foot on the United Arab Emirate, blessed children and worshippers during his visit.

For these reasons, and many others, the UAE is honoured to welcome Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi.

Francis, 82, arrived in a humble Kia hatchback with a small group of clerics but was greeted with an artillery salute and military flyover after being escorted through the palace gardens by horse-mounted guards.

Even for a nation known for excess, the Emiratis' red-carpet welcome was remarkable, especially for a pope who prides himself on simplicity.

Officers fired 21 shots in the air, while jets flew overhead leaving white and yellow trails - the colours of the Vatican City flag.

Francis' speech to the gathering later in the evening is the highlight of his brief, 40-hour visit to Abu Dhabi.

To mark the occasion, the pontiff offered the crown prince a framed medallion of the meeting between St. Francis Assisi - the pope's namesake - and the Sultan of Egypt Malek al-Kamel, in 1219.

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The Catholic Church believes there are a million Catholics in the UAE.

Francis and el-Tayeb are to address the "Human Fraternity Meeting" Monday that has drawn not only Christian and Muslim representatives but hundreds of Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and other Christian faith leaders. Otherwise they warn of a "third world war being fought piecemeal".

The Emirates has been Saudi Arabia's main ally in the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting the country's Houthi rebels, and Francis' pre-trip appeal was a way for him to avoid embarrassing his hosts with a public denunciation of the humanitarian costs of the war while in the region.

Here are some stunning pictures from Pope Francis' visit to UAE from Tuesday.

"With great happiness, we welcome the arrival of my dear UAE guests". "It is as if Jesus is coming to my home", said Faisal Kheeran, who is originally from Pakistan and has lived in the UAE for almost a decade. That respect for non-Muslim forms of worship, however, runs up against the political reality of media censorship, repression of political dissent and bans on proselytizing and conversion for Muslims.

Violence, extremism or fanaticism could never be justified in the name of religion, he said.

The document urged tolerance, declaring they "call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of global policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing".

"Together, as brothers in the one human family willed by God, let us commit ourselves against the logic of armed power, against the monetisation of relations, the arming of borders, the raising of walls, the gagging of the poor; let us oppose all this with the sweet power of prayer and daily commitment to dialogue", he said.

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