Pope Francis Departs UAE Following Historic Visit


On Sunday morning, hundreds of Catholics queued in drizzling rain outside St. Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi to get their passes.

From the window at the Vatican on Sunday, just an hour before leaving for the United Arab Emirates, a country helping Saudi Arabia fight a war in Yemen, Pope Francis called on those involved to respect worldwide peace accords.

The UAE plays a leading role in a Saudi-led coalition battling to restore Yemen's internationally recognised government. The pope received a traditional military welcome that included a flyover by UAE military aircraft.

Spectators waved the white and yellow Vatican flag, emblazoned with the crossed keys of St Peter.

"Pope Francis Pope of the Catholic Church and the virtue of Imam Ahmed Tayeb Sheikh of Al-Azhar al-Sharif", bin Zayed wrote on Twitter.

Parishes across the UAE said 135,000 tickets to the pope's mass were distributed to parishioners. Today, almost one million Catholics reside here. Many of them are workers from the Catholic-majority Philippines.

Pope Francis landed in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for the first ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula - the birthplace of Islam.

Both men will hold meetings with Pope Francis on Monday.

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"We discussed enhancing cooperation, consolidating dialogue, tolerance, human coexistence and important initiatives to achieve peace, stability and development for peoples and societies", he tweeted.

Entitled the Human Fraternity Document, the document pledges that al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism, claiming to be in the name of "all victims of wars, persecution and injustice", and warns against a "third world war being fought piecemeal".

In order to safeguard peace there is a need to enter together, as one family, into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world, "the ark of fraternity", Pope Francis said in a speech delivered at the Founder's Memorial.

During the mass the Pope spoke in Italian and English. He called on the religious leaders to resist such "floods of violence".

Pope Francis meets Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan during a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 4, 2019.

The UAE is involved in the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya.

The Pope's meeting with the Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb caught the attention of many as the two religious leaders hugged each other.

Furthermore, he urged Muslims who reside in Western countries to integrate into local communities without losing their identities. "You are a choir composed of numerous nations, languages and rites; a diversity that the Holy Spirit loves and wants to harmonize ever more, in order to make a symphony". "You are not minorities", he said.