Pope Francis arrives to hold public mass in UAE

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Pope Francis has wrapped up his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula today.

Pope Francis blesses a child at the February 5 Mass in Abu Dhabi.

These were Christians from the peripheries, in other words, people whom Francis has made it his pontificate's mission to embrace. Horse-mounted guards escorted the pontiff's motorcade through the palace gardens.

Even for a nation known for its excesses, the Emiratis' red-carpet welcome was remarkable for a pope who prides himself on simplicity. He was greeted with a 21-shot salute and military flyover trailing yellow and white smoke in the colours of the Vatican flag. The mass, delivered in front of some 135,000 attendees at Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, comes as a highlight of the pope's historic visit to the United Arab Emirates.


Pope Francis in turn gave him a framed medallion of the meeting between St Francis Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt Malek al-Kamel in 1219. Since then, religious fanaticism and faith-inspired wars have only grown around the globe, inspiring the pontiff's efforts to promote tolerance and understanding.

Thus far the Pontiff has been met at the airport by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dr Ahmad Al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif on Sunday, and was also received at the Presidential Palace by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince on Monday.

The UAE is deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in the Arab world's poorest country, where tens of thousands have been killed and millions face food and medical shortages.

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.


Aid groups working in Yemen hope Francis won't just rely on his public appeals but will use his visit to bring his message to the Emirati leadership in person. 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. The current pope, a Jesuit from Argentina, is the first head of the Catholic Church to choose the name of that religious order's founder - Francis.

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".

In off-the-cuff remarks not included in his prepared speech, the Pope said: "Let us pray loudly because there are children that are hungry, are thirsty, don't have medicine and their lives are in danger".

Her father Gregory nodded and added: "Any time".


"All religions are innocent and free from terrorism and armed groups, no matter what religion or notion those groups follow, who their victims are, or what land their crimes were committed on", he told the crowd gathered at the memorial as the sun set.

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