SHAFAQNA | Nasibeh Yazdani – Pope Francis kicked off his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, just after he slammed the bloody Yemen war, where his host — the United Arab Emirates — has a leading military role.
It’s the first time a pontiff has visited the Persian Gulf state. Pope Francis‘s three-day visit has begun with pomp and ceremony at the presidential palace where he was received by the crown prince.
Cannon boomed and a military flypast was also staged trailing yellow and white smoke during a lavish ceremony to officially kick-start the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.
Pope Francis signed a book of honour in which he wrote of his “gratitude for your warm welcome and hospitality” and assured the people of the UAE of his prayers and “the divine blessings of peace and fraternal solidarity”.
The Crown Prince, in turn, gifted the Pope the act of notary dating back to June 22, 1963, for a donation of land to build the first church in the UAE.
The crown prince posted images of the pontiff at the palace on Twitter and wrote he was “delighted” to meet Pope Francis “in our homeland of tolerance”.
“We discussed enhancing cooperation, consolidating dialogue, tolerance, human coexistence and important initiatives to achieve peace, stability and development for peoples and societies,” he tweeted.
Bin Rashid Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates wrote in twitter:
UAE today was proud to host the historic meeting of His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence Dr. Ahmad Al Tayeb. We launched the ‘Human Fraternity Award’ to create a true interfaith dialogue. The two religious symbols were honoured during the award’s first edition.
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) February 4, 2019
Pope on Monday afternoon gave his first public speech at a meeting with Muslim leaders at the city’s Founder’s Memorial center in an effort to promote interfaith dialogue.
Pope Francis met the Grand Imam of Al Azhar
Pope Francis met the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, who welcomed him to the mosque.
“The world must reject war and everything associated with it”, the Pope said at the Founder’s Memorial.
“Human fraternity requires of us, as representatives of the world’s religions, the duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word ‘war’. I am thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya,” the Pope said during an interfaith meeting in Abu Dhabi attended by Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the world’s top Sunni Muslim cleric.
In his speech, Dr Al Tayeb said he and the Pope agreed that all faiths should be free from the actions of those who commit violence in the name of religion.
“We have agreed that all faiths are free from all the armed entities that are causing terror, whichever faith, doctrine, or ideologies they have,” he said. “These are criminals, blood slaughterers and aggressors.”
Referencing the biblical story of Noah, the Pope suggested that, in order to safeguard peace, we too “need to enter together as one family into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world”. This means acknowledging, “God is at the origin of the one human family. No violence can be justified in the name of religion”, he said.
the Pope then posed the question: “How do we look after each other in the one human family, Vatican news reported.
Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb signed a Human Fraternity Document at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi.
The document seeks to encourage fraternal relationships between all people, bring an end to conflicts and help the poorest in society.
Speaking at the memorial Pope Francis said “hatred and violence” in the name of God cannot be justified, praising the value of education in reducing conflict.
Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb called on Muslims to protect Christian communities in the Middle East and Muslims in the West to integrate into their communities.
“You are part of this nation… You are not minorities,” he told Christians during a speech in Abu Dhabi.
Pope hold a public Mass for 170,000 Catholics
The Pope hold a public Mass for an estimated 170,000 Catholics Tuesday at the Zayed Sports City. The UAE has declared Tuesday a holiday for invitees to the mass.
“How beautiful it is for brothers to be joined under this sky,” said an MC in Arabic shortly after the pope’s arrival around 10:00am.
Addressing the congregation, Pope Francis spoke of God’s love.
“A joy that no one in this world under no circumstance can take away from us. It’s a joy that gives us peace amongst pain,” he said.
“When Jesus told us how to live, he didn’t ask us to erect great monuments, or for extraordinary gestures. He asked one monument of us, that of our life,” he said in his main speech of the service, The National reported.
Pontiff called for a ceasefire in Yemen
The papal visit comes as the UAE faces criticism as Saudi Arabia’s main ally in its war in Yemen, where the conflict has left half the country’s population on the brink of starvation.
Before leaving for Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the pontiff called for a ceasefire in Yemen and for food and medicine to get to its people.
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, CNN told.
“The cries of these children and their parents rise up” to God, he said .
Pope Francis urged all sides to implement a peace deal and deliver aid to millions suffering from famine in the war-torn country during his regular Sunday mass in Vatican City.
“I appeal to all sides involved and to the international community to urgently press for respect of the agreements that have been reached, guarantee the distribution of food, and work for the good of the population,” he told the crowd. “I invite everybody to pray strongly for our brothers in Yemen”, EURONEWS reported.
The UAE plays an important role in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen civil war. The brutal conflict has put the war-ravaged country on the brink of total devastation, with over 60,000 reported killed as result of the hostilities and further 85,000 perished due to famine, epidemics and lack of basic medical care.
The kingdom’s role in the almost a four-year-war was highlighted in the recent report that the American military have been training Emirati fighter pilots to be dispatched in Yemen, RT reported.
As the crown prince and the pope held talks, Human Rights Watch urged the pontiff to use his 40-hour visit to the UAE to press its rulers “to investigate alleged serious violations by its armed forces and Yemeni forces it supports, to appropriately prosecute those responsible for war crimes, and to provide reparation to victims of violations”.
The organization said in a letter to the Argentinian that “despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record”, Sky News reported.
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