Pope Francis Makes Groundbreaking Trip to United Arab Emirates

Seven United Arab Emirates flags in Sharjah

Modal Trigger Seven United Arab Emirates flags in Sharjah. Shutterstock

Hours before he flies back to Rome on Tuesday, he will lead mass in a stadium in Abu Dhabi - set to be the largest gathering ever in the UAE, according to local media.

Francis called for an end to the war in Yemen, where the UAE plays a key role.

In a statement on Saturday, Al-Azhar described the upcoming meeting as "historic" and praised the "deeply fraternal relationship" between its imam and the Pope, which it said even includes birthday greetings.

He asserted that religious leaders have a duty to reject all war and commit themselves to dialogue.

"God is with those who seek peace", he added. "From heaven he blesses every step which, on this path, is accomplished on earth", he said.

"Let us commit ourselves against the logic of armed power", he said. Francis gave the crown prince a medal depicting his peace-loving namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, meeting the Egyptian sultan Malek el-Kamel 800 years ago.

On Monday, the pope held talks in Abu Dhabi with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb - imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's prestigious seat of learning - before delivering an address at an interfaith meeting. It featured horse-mounted guards escorting the pontiff's motorcade through the palace gardens while the flyover trailed the yellow and white smoke of the Holy See flag.

It is cheaper than the Sportage, and is the second smallest auto in Kia's range. He shunned bulletproof cars or limousines since the start of his papacy.

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Abu Dhabi's crown prince is an ally of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has reached out to Christian representatives overseas as part of attempts to open up the conservative kingdom.

The pope and his host Sheikh Mohammed are also expected to discuss "terrorism" and violence.

During Sunday mass in Vatican City, the Pontiff declared that he is following the news of the war in Yemen with deep concern, and urged all sides to swiftly halt hostilities as millions suffer disease, starvation and the destruction of their homes, towns and families. He will first visit a mosque, one of the biggest in the world, where he will meet privately with the Council of Elders, an organization based in Abu Dhabi, which aims to promote peace and tolerance among Islamic communities. "We are hopeful that generations to come will prosper in peace and security" tweeted the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Zayed al-Nahyan.

It ran an article citing Muslim and Catholic officials saying Saudi Arabia could feature in a future papal visit.

They found welcome in the Emirates, which prides itself on its tolerance in a region known for severely restricting religious freedom and is home to a remarkably vibrant Catholic community that by some estimates numbers one million faithful in a federation of nine million. But like other Gulf states it outlaws unsanctioned religious gatherings and non-Muslims must not proselytize.

This handout picture released by the Vatican press office on February 4, 2019 shows Pope Francis (C) walking alongside Abu Dhabi´s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (R) and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (C-L), during his welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

Yemen's warring parties agreed a ceasefire in December at the first major peace talks of the almost four-year-old war, which pits Arab states backing an exiled president against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls the capital.

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