‘Be oases of peace,’ pope says in Abu Dhabi

Pope Francis participated this Tuesday (5) in his last appointment in UAE, where he arrived on Sunday for the first visit of a leader of the Catholic Church to the Arabian Peninsula. He celebrated a mass for some 180,000 people.

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São Paulo – Approximately 180,000 people were present for the last appointment of pope Francis in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, this Tuesday (5). The pope arrived in the Arab country on Sunday (3), was welcomed by religious leaders and local authorities, and concluded his schedule with a mass in Zayed Sports City. It was the first visit from a Catholic Church leader to the Arabian Peninsula.

Speaking in Italian, with a simultaneous translation into Arabic, the pope talked in his homily about happiness, following Jesus Christ, and the Beatitudes, a Biblical passage stressing humility, meekness, justice, forgiveness and peace. According to him, to live the beatitudes, we don’t need “extraordinary gestures.”

“The Beatitudes are not for supermen, but for those who face up to the everyday challenges and trials. Those who live out the Beatitudes according to Jesus can cleanse the world. They are like a tree that even in the wasteland absorbs polluted air each day and gives back oxygen,” said Francis to those present, according to the Vatican website.

The Catholic leader talked a lot about peace. “May your communities be oases of peace,” he said. And he elaborated on one of the beatitudes talking about the theme: Blessed are the peacemakers. “I ask you the grace to preserve peace, unity, to take care of each other, with that beautiful fraternity in which there are no first- or second-class Christians,” said Francis.

The stadium housed 45,000 people and the rest of the public watched the mass from outside through giant screens prepared specially for the occasion. According to information from the UAE official news agency Emirates News Agency (WAM), people from and outside the country participated in the celebration. The mass started at 10:30 am and lasted for 90 minutes.

On Monday (4), the pope met with the grand Iman Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb of Al-Azhar mosque in Egypt, considered the highest authority of the Sunni Muslim world. Together, they launched a joint appeal for world peace and signed a document on the theme during a meeting held at the Founder’s Memorial.

“Whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity,” says the text. The document condemns genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human trafficking, abortion and euthanasia and says the religions must never incite war. Both religious leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to religious freedom and stressed the need for the protection of the rights of women, children, the elderly, the weak, the disabled, and the oppressed.

The pope was welcomed by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – UAE vice-president and prime-minister, and ruler of Dubai – and Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces in the Presidential Palace.

There was also an acrobatic display by the UAE Air Force, which painted the clouds in yellow and white, the colors of the Vatican flag, to celebrate the visit. The UAE leaders expressed his joy for the historical visit and the confidence that it will contribute to the dialogue, brotherhood, coexistence, cooperation and respect among all human beings, as well as peace and security across the world, according to WAM.

The pope presented his hosts with a medallion depicting the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and the sultan Malek el-Kamel, an episode narrated in a manuscript detailing the biography of St. Francis. The imagery in the medallion highlights the purpose of the pope’s trip to the UAE: human fraternity and dialogue.

Translated by Guilherme Miranda

Karim Sahib/AFP
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