Pope Francis visits United Arab Emirates to pursue inter-religious dialogue

Pope Francis made a short visit to the United Arab Emirates from February 3-5. “The theme of the visit was St. Francis of Assisi’s “make me a channel of your peace.” That is especially significant because this visit occurred 800 years after the encounter between St. Francis himself and the Sultan Malik al-Kamil. And here we have the pope who has the same name as St. Francis of Assisi and who presented himself as one who was yearning to be a channel of peace. So that first day, on Monday, was dedicated to meeting with authorities, and these are authorities of the Muslim world. The theme was the pursuit of inter-religious dialogue,” reported Ashley Noronha, Relevant Radio® Rome Correspondent, on Morning Air®.

“Together with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar he signed a declaration called the Declaration of Paternity. And it’s really the first time in the Islamic world that a document like this has existed. The words of the document touch on having respect for believers of different faiths, condemning discrimination, protecting all places of worship, the rights to religious liberty, and the recognition of the rights of women. And the Holy Father said the document was prepared with ‘much reflection and prayer’. And he said, ‘It’s born of faith in God who is a father of all and the father of peace.’”

At his general weekly audience this morning, Pope Francis reflected on his journey, saying that the words most significant to him in the Document of Paternity were wisdom and fidelity. He said, “The path of wisdom and fidelity leads to building peace.”

He also spent time during his visit with the Catholics living in United Arab Emirates. “He visited Abu Dhabi St. Joseph Catholic Cathedral … and he went on to Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports Arena and there he celebrated the Holy Mass with 180,000 people participating. The majority of Catholics in that area are ex-pats coming mostly from India and the Philippines. They come there for work and he spoke to their particular situation. He acknowledged that it is not easy to live far from home and of course you miss living around your loved ones,” said Noronha. Pope Francis prayed during the Mass especially for peace in the Middle East and for women.

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