Pope Francis Makes Historic Visit to Arabian Peninsula

Pope Francis Makes Historic Visit to Arabian Peninsula

In a historic visit of sorts, Pope Francis ministered to the thriving Catholic community in the United Arab Emirates as he concluded his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula with the first-ever papal Mass here and a call for his flock to remain meek in following God.

The mass, the largest-ever public Christian religious gathering on the Arabian Peninsula, comes one day after the pope called for religious freedom.

Pope Francis used his visit to call for greater cooperation between both Christians and Muslims and to condemn regional wars, notably the conflict in Yemen - the poorest country in the Peninsula - where the UAE is involved as part of a Saudi-led military coalition.

Organizers said faithful from 100 countries would attend, as well as 4,000 Muslims from this Muslim federation - evidence of the enormous diversity among the 9 million people who live in the UAE. His guiding principle was that "people are all brothers. the righteous is our brother, and the faulty is our brother", and he was determined that the nation he founded in 1971 would be a place where peoples of all faiths would be welcome.

That's because in the United Arab Emirates about 80% of the population is made up of workers who come from overseas, and many of them are Catholic.

Shortly afterwards Francis departed for Abu Dhabi, where he will be a guest of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. At least 10,000 people have been killed, though rights groups say the real number could be closer to 50,000.

Francis also delivered an address at an interfaith meeting attended by Sheikh Ahmed and UAE leaders, and pushed for an end to all wars in the Middle East, including in Yemen.

The Pope's visit coincides with the Year of Tolerance being marked by the UAE in 2019.

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Pinto and her husband said that as Christians, they did not always feel safe in India, but in the UAE, "we feel we all are one".

All in all, it is estimated there are about 1 million Catholics in the UAE today, majority from the Philippines and from India, but also from African countries, the Middle East, and Europe.

The meeting ended with Pope Francis and Sheik el-Tayeb signing "A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together".

The highlight of the Pope's visit will be a giant mass led by Francis on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi's main sports arena. "It's a joy that gives us peace amongst pain", he said.

"Let us pray strongly because they are children who are hungry, who are thirsty, they don't have medicine and they are in danger of death", he said.

According to the Vatican press office, the pope and the imam also "inaugurated" the cornerstone for a church and mosque that will be built alongside each other in the United Arab Emirates.

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 Houthi rebels. 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 kingdom has also branded the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, viewing it as a threat to the country's system of hereditary rule. These were believers drawn from the Emirates' migrant-worker communities: Filipinos, Africans, Indians and many others.

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