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Papal trip ‘wrote a new page in history’

WelCom March 2019:

Pope Francis and Ahmed el Tayeb grand imam of al Azhar, signed a joint declaration on human fraternity during an interreligious meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE, February 4 2019. Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis travelled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, 3-5 February this year, to participate in an international interfaith meeting.

Making the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula the aim was to demonstrate the importance that Pope Francis gives to inter-religious dialogue. His theme was ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’, taken from a prayer by St Francis of Assisi. The visit came during the 800th anniversary of St Francis of Assisi’s encounter with the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil.

During the two-day visit, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam al-Azhar signed a declaration on human fraternity in front of a global audience of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths.

The declaration covers the need to work for peace, protect religious freedom, permit citizenship for all religions, and protect places of worship. It also pledges that al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism.

Pope Francis completed his visit by celebrating an historic public Catholic Mass in Abu Dhabi, held at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, for an estimated 120,000 – including some of the 130,000 Catholics from 100 different countries who live in the UAE. Together with the Pope they prayed for peace and justice, with special intentions for the Middle East, and for Yemen in particular. The Mass was also attended by around 4000 Muslims and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

At his weekly general audience on his return to the Vatican, Pope Francis said, that although brief, the apostolic journey to the United Arab Emirates ‘wrote a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam’.

Pope Francis said that the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity, with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, represents another step forward. In this document, ‘we affirmed the common vocation of all men and women to be brothers and sisters, insofar as all are children of God’.

Source: Vatican Media