Pope senses 'good will' in UAE for Yemen peace process

The UAE now hosts eight Catholic churches due to the fact that almost one million Catholics live in the Emirates. The pope received a traditional military welcome that included a flyover by UAE military aircraft.

Spectators waved the white and yellow Vatican flag, emblazoned with the crossed keys of St Peter.

Tens of thousands of people flocked to a sports stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to attend the first mass held in the Arabian Peninsula by a pope.

This unique flock has welcomed Pope Francis' presence with huge gratitude and emotion.

This is exactly the theme of Pope Francis trip, chosen by the Pontiff himself and fully endorsed by the UAE. There are more than 40 churches, nine of them for Catholics.

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.

The Pope is expected to leave the UAE around 1:00 p.m. following a farewell ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Presidential Flight. He said they discussed increased cooperation in several areas.

"It embodies our belief in the values of love & tolerance as a pathway for humanity towards peace, security, stability & rapprochement between different people & culture", he said.

The document urged tolerance, declaring they "call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of worldwide 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".

"I am thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya", he said at the interfaith meeting attended by Sheikh Ahmed and UAE leaders.

Before his arrival in UAE, Pope Francis wrote on Twitter that he was visiting the country "as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together, and to travel paths of peace together".

"We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood", the document read.

"Human fraternity requires of us, as representatives of the world's religions, the duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war.

May your communities be oases of peace", the pontiff, who arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday on a three-day trip, told over 120,000 worshippers, mostly migrants, at the Zayed Sports City Stadium. Notably, the UAE is a signatory to the war declared by its neighbour Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

The head of Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning has urged Muslims in the Middle East to "embrace" local Christians.

To Christians, he noted: "You are part of this nation".

Hundreds of protestors have been arrested, jailed and had their citizenship revoked over what the government says is "terrorism" linked to Iran. There, Francis will see first-hand a Catholic community that is big, diverse and dynamic, at a time when the wider Mideast has seen an exodus of Christians fleeing persecution at the hands of the Islamic State group and others. George Grow was the editor.

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  • Rogelio Becker