Wednesday, 18 September, 2019

Pope Francis holds open-air Mass in Abu Dhabi - thousands attend

Expat children hold the candles while serving during the mass at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali in Dubai Violence in the Name of God: Pope Condemns Saudi-Led War in Yemen
Patty Aguilar | 05 February, 2019, 21:50

As CBN News reported, several evangelical leaders say the UAE is a good starting point to promote religious freedom among Muslim countries.

"Despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record", Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Francis.

Francis stood somberly between Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Emirati vice president and prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as the Vatican and Emirati anthems played and delegations were introduced.

Pope Francis' trip has been warmly welcomed by Filipino and Indian Catholics among the UAE's huge migrant workforce.

"We have to say it is really a big event for us which we never expected", said Sumitha Pinto, and Indian native who has lived in the UAE for almost 20 years.

Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Sunni Islam's most renowned seat of learning, arrived at the ceremony in Abu Dhabi hand-in-hand in a symbol of interfaith fraternity, reports The Guardian.

At the apex of his historic three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, the pontiff told the faithful to be "oases of peace" during his homily, in which he also urged them to live by the Beatitudes preached by Jesus.

The UAE supports Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, which has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday morning, around 135,000 turned out for Holy High Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.

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Organizers said Catholics from 100 countries, as well as about 4,000 Muslims, were expected to attend.

Of the over nine million people now living in the UAE, around one million are Emirati, while the rest are foreigners drawn to the oil-rich federation to work in everything from white-collar finance to construction.

The Emirates has a significant population of foreign workers who are Catholics, from countries such as the Philippines and India, with nine Catholic churches.

Pope Francis meanwhile is well known as an advocate for tolerance and the laying aside of differences and for his determined call for the pursuit of peace and fraternity among humanity, and the award recognises this continued commitment and approach.

Bahrain and Qatar are home to one Catholic church each while Oman, Kuwait and Yemen each have four and the UAE has eight Catholic churches.

He said: 'His visit is a big and important encouragement for the Christians that live in these countries because they are far from their homeland and they need especially to be encouraged so that they feel they are home'.

The UAE has played a leading role in the Saudi-led military coalition waging a almost four-year war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen in a conflict which has pushed the poorest country on the peninsula to the brink of starvation. He dodged a question about whether Francis would raise Yemen's years-long war in his private talks with the Emirates' ruler.

Majority belong to the nine Catholic Churches of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia that ministers to the faithful in the UAE, Yemen, and Oman.

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