What Pope Francis did in Abu Dhabi on February 4

By Sheena Amos

Leaders hold wide-ranging discussions with Pope

ABU DHABI 5 February 2019: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, discussed with His Holiness Pope Francis the friendly relations between the UAE and the Vatican as well a number of topics of mutual interest.

The leaders also examined ways to further extend cooperation so as to promote tolerance, dialogue and coexistence across the world.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed welcomed Pope Francis, and conveyed to him the greetings and best wishes of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said Wam.

During the meeting, held at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, the two sides reviewed prospects for cooperation and joint efforts to consolidate fraternity and coexistence and promote dialogue so as to ensure security, stability and peace worldwide.

Their Highnesses said that the Papal visit and related events and seminars helped to establish that all religions and cultures are ultimately one and celebrate the human spirit. It was also an important opportunity, they said, to exchange views and strengthen dialogue and tolerance.

The leaders stressed that since the UAE was established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, it had been committed to support efforts leading to security, peace and stability. The UAE believes that peace and stability help people across the world to form the basis upon which to establish development and achieve prosperity, they said.

His Holiness Pope Francis said he was happy to visit the UAE, pointing out that his visit represented a new stage in the history of human fraternity, marked by close ties between different religions. Pope Francis added that he was also happy to have been invited by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to take part in the Human Fraternity Meeting in what he described as the land of peace, coexistence and security. He also remarked upon the role of the late Sheikh Zayed in helping to make the UAE a country which respects other civilisations, cultures and religions.

At the end of their meeting, the two sides called for strengthening cooperation between various regional and international organisations in order to formulate initiatives and visions that promote effective and constructive dialogue among different cultures and that emphasise the importance of respecting others’ beliefs and promoting tolerance and peace.

The two sides said the world urgently needed to promote the spirit of fraternity and coexistence globally in order to consolidate security, peace and stability, as well as to confront attempts to distort religion and incite religious hatred.

They expressed their hope that the message of fraternity launched from the UAE would help establish a road map for dialogue, fraternity, harmony and coexistence between different nations, peoples and religions.

Pope Francis wrote a short message in the visitors’ book at the Presidential Palace, expressing his happiness at visiting the UAE and receiving such a warm welcome.

He praised the vital role played by the UAE in establishing a culture of dialogue, tolerance, peaceful coexistence and brotherhood, as well as supporting the foundations of development, security and stability for the people across the world.

At the end of the meeting, Their Highnesses presented the Pope a leather box containing a document issued on 22nd June 1963 by the late Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the then Ruler of Abu Dhabi, granting a plot of land on the western side of Abu Dhabi to the Catholic Church. The commemorative gift also contained a historical picture of Sheikh Shakhbut with Bishop Luigi Magliacani da Castel del Piano, then the Catholic Vicar Apostolic of Arabia.

Among those who attended the meeting were H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region; Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council; H.H. Sheikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain Region; Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan; H.H. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council; H.H. Lt General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior; H.H. Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor, H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court; H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; H.H. Sheikh Omar bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation; H.H. Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs; H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Advisor to His Highness the UAE President; H.H. Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Sheikh Diab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport.

His Holiness Pope Francis was accompanied by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People; Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, Substitute of the Secretariat of State; Archbishop Francisco M. Padilla, Apostolic Nuncio to the United Arab Emirates; Bishop Miguel A. Ayuso Guixot, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Bishop Paul Hinder, O.F.M. Cap., Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia; Msgr. Gianluca Pezzoli, Official of the Secretariat of State; Fr. Simon Peter Lukyamuzi, Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature; Fr. Michael P. O’Sullivan, Local Coordinator; Fr. Antonino Spadaro, SJ, Director of ‘La Civilta Cattolica’; and Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, as well as other senior officials.

Leaders receive Pope Francis at Presidential Palace

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed earlier received on Monday His Holiness Pope Francis of the Catholic Church, who is on an official visit to the country.

On his arrival at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, accompanied by cavalry mounted on Arabian horses, Pope Francis was accorded a 21-gun salute, followed by the playing of the anthems of The Vatican and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE Air Force aerobatic display team, Al Fursan, flew over the Presidential Palace, painting the Vatican flag in the clouds to celebrate the visit.

During the ceremony, Their Highnesses welcomed the visit of Pope Francis to the country and expressed happiness at the historic visit of a man famed for peace and love across the world. They expressed confidence that the visit would contribute to dialogue, brotherhood, coexistence, cooperation and respect among all human beings, and would enhance peace and security for people across the world.

His Holiness Pope Francis greeted UAE dignitaries, including Sheikhs and ministers, while His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan shook hands with the official delegation accompanying the Pope.

After his meeting with Sheikh Mohamed, Pope Francis signed the ‘Book of Honour’ and presented a framed medallion by the artist Daniela Longo.

The medallion depicts the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan Malek el-Kamel which took place in 1219, an episode narrated in the ninth chapter of the ‘Legenda Maior’ – one of the most important manuscripts of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma detailing the official biography of St. Francis.

A Latin inscription of the Apostolic visit can be found around the border of the medallion, whose imagery highlights the purpose of the trip, human fraternity and dialogue.

Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Pope Francis meet Muslim Council of Elders

His Eminence Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, and His Holiness Pope Francis, the Head of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City, both attended a meeting yesterday of the Council.

The meeting, held at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, marks the first time a Pope has met with the Muslim Council of Elders, and reinforces the UAE’s commitment to encouraging open inter-faith dialogue. It also demonstrates the shared commitment to closer relations and open discussions between two of the world’s largest religious groups with the discussions taking place as part of the broader Human Fraternity Meeting.

The Papal Visit coincides with the Global Conference of Human Fraternity, hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders that began yesterday, attracting 700 religious leaders, thinkers and multi-faith representatives. Attendees include Sudhindra Kulkarani, Chairman of India’s Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai; Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace; Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, and Rev. Marie Sol Villalon, Pastor of the United Methodist Church.

A range of topics relating to the concept of human fraternity are being discussed, including how religious values can assist in combating extremism, analysing the roles and responsibilities between international and humanitarian organisations and the role of religious organisations in reviving the value of human goodness.

Dr. Sultan Al Remeithi, General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Elders, said that the impact of the Conference was already positive even before it began as its message of Human Fraternity began to resonate around the world ahead of the gathering of global representatives from 12 religions.

He said: “This may not be the first time that His Eminence the Grand Imam and His Holiness the Pope have met but it is by far their most important meeting for two reasons. The first is that it is taking place during the first ever Papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula and, secondly, it is happening during the UAE’s Year of Tolerance.”

The Muslim Council of Elders was established in 2014 as a global organisation and is the first independent body of its kind established to promote peace and address the issues of conflict in Muslim communities. It is led by His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar.

The joint visit to the United Arab Emirates of the Grand Imam and Pope Francis comes during the UAE’s Year of Tolerance. The country has a long and proud history of inter-faith dialogue, with the first Catholic Church established in Abu Dhabi in 1965. Archaeologists have also found the remains of a church and monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island dating back to the 7th Century.

There are a total of 76 Churches and other places of worship in the UAE and the Government has also donated land for the development of new places of worship within the country.

Pope Francis, Grand Imam visit Sheikh Zayed mosque

As part of his visit to the United Arab Emirates, which began yesterday, His Holiness Pope Francis, the Head of the Catholic Church, today visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, with His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb.

They were accompanied by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Supreme National Committee of the ‘Year of Tolerance’.

The visit to the UAE’s largest mosque is the first time a Pontiff has visited a mosque in the Arabian Peninsula and is seen as marking marks another step in the country’s long history of encouraging multi-faith and intercultural dialogue.

The visit was part of the official programme for the visit by the Pope and the Grand Imam as they both participate in the Human Fraternity Meeting that coincides with the Global Conference on Human Fraternity, which has attracted 700 participants around the world from different faiths.

The Conference has three key themes of discussion which are fundamental elements of human fraternity and form the central message of the UAE’s multi-faith outlook: the importance of joint initiatives, dialogue for peaceful progress and the opportunities that exist for stronger cooperation to promote shared values in the future.

The historic visit, during the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, is the first time a Catholic Pope has ever visited the UAE and the first time a Pontiff has undertaken an official visit alongside a Muslim religious figure as significant as the Grand Imam.

The construction of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque began in November 1996, with the internal prayer halls first opened for worship during Eid Al Adha in 2007.

In presence of Mohamed bin Zayed, Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al Azhar sign Special Olympics ball
ABU DHABI, 4th February, 2019 (WAM) – His Holiness Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, and His Eminence Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sherif, signed today, in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the ‘Special Olympics’ ball, to mark hosting of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi on 8-22 March 2019.

The ball was presented by the Paralympic athlete Sheikha Sheikha Al Qasimi while she was received by His Holiness Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi.

Pope Francis and Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb expressed their wishes for the success of this globally renowned event and happiness to the people of determination.

7 messages on the Pope’s visit to UAE

The historic visit of Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, to the UAE and his first to the Arabian Peninsula, carries many main messages about the role of the UAE in strengthening efforts of tolerance and coexistence in the region and the world.

Emirates News Agency monitored the seven most prominent messages of the visit which establish a new stage in the dialogue of religions, bringing civilisations and peoples closer.

International Stature: The visit reflects the stature occupied by the UAE internationally, and the international trust in its capability of influencing and presenting the most balanced model which can replace the theses which caused destruction in the region and their influence that it extended to the world during the last two decades. The visit is considered a clear affirmation that the country’s message, which is based on promoting the meanings of coexistence between religions, is an international message.

Crowning: The visit represents a crowning of the UAE’s continuous efforts in strengthening the tolerance of Islam. The UAE has worked on institutionalising the efforts and intellectual theories expressed by announcing the Ministry of Tolerance, the first of its kind in the world, while it hosted and supported many intellectual centres such as the Hedayah Centre, the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, the Muslim Council of Elders, Sawab Centre, and other institutions.

Social Awareness: The visit sheds light on a unique model presented by the UAE in building a society which is cohesive in its international structure, maintains its religious and cultural identity, and is open to the experiences of the other peoples and civilizations. And the speech of His Holiness the Pope, which he made before his visit, confirms this social awareness. His Holiness said, “The UAE is the land of prosperity and peace, the home of coexistence and meeting, in which many find a safe place to work and live with the freedom which respects the difference.”

A Focal Point: The visit devotes the UAE’s stature and location as the main focal point between the world and the Arab and Islamic countries, especially after its strenuous efforts to confront the hatred and discrimination with all their forms and different sources. This is alongside its success on more than one occasion in gathering different representatives of religions and sects under one roof in an air of constructive dialogue to discuss all issues and challenges which threaten the future of peaceful coexistence.

Trust: The visit reflects the mutual trust between the UAE and the Catholic Church and other non-Islamic religious references in the world, which has developed to the level of a strategic partnership that strengthens the values of peaceful coexistence between the peoples, spreads the values of tolerance among them and creates a communication mechanism which contributes to limiting the intensity of religious and sectarian struggles which have spread in many parts of the world.

Security and Stability: The visit and what accompanies it highlights the level of security and stability which the UAE enjoys, and the reassurance which it provides to all citizens and residents on its soil. It has today become the first choice for holding the biggest events and international occasions. It has also become the preferred destination for all nationalities, races and religions for living, working and achieving their ambitions.

Dubai Gazette