Paul VI Hall
Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Apostolic Journey to the United Arab Emirates
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In recent days I made a short Apostolic Journey to the United Arab Emirates. A short but very important journey that, linking up to the 2017 meeting in Al-Azhar, Egypt, wrote a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam and in the commitment to promote peace in the world on the basis of human brotherhood .
For the first time, a Pope went to the Arabian peninsula. And Providence wanted it to be a Pope by the name of Francis, 800 years after the visit of St. Francis of Assisi to the sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. I often thought of Saint Francis during this journey: he helped me to keep the Gospel, the love of Jesus Christ in my heart, while I was living the various moments of the visit; in my heart there was the Gospel of Christ, prayer to the Father for all his children, especially for the poorest, for the victims of injustices, wars, misery ...; prayer because the dialogue between Christianity and Islam is a decisive factor for peace in today's world.
I sincerely thank the Hereditary Prince, the President, the Vice President and all the Authorities of the United Arab Emirates, who welcomed me with great courtesy. That country has grown a lot in recent decades: it has become a crossroads between East and West, a multiethnic and multi-religious "oasis", and therefore a suitable place to promote the culture of encounter. I express my gratitude to Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of South Arabia, who prepared and organized the event for the Catholic community, and my "thank you" extends with affection to the priests, religious and laity who animate the Christian presence in that land.
I had the opportunity to greet the first priest - ninety - who had gone there to found so many communities. He is in the wheelchair, blind, but the smile does not fall from his lips, the smile of having served the Lord and of having done so well. I also said hello to another ninety-year-old priest - but that was walking and continuing to work. Good boy! - and many priests who are there at the service of the Christian communities of the Latin rite, of the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara rituals, of the Maronite rite that come from Lebanon, India, the Philippines and other countries.
In addition to the speeches, in Abu Dhabi one step was taken: the Great Imam of Al-Azhar and I signed the document on the Human Brotherhood, in which together we affirm the common vocation of all men and women to be brothers in As God's sons and daughters, we condemn all forms of violence, especially those with religious motivation, and we commit ourselves to spreading authentic values and peace throughout the world. This document will be studied in schools and universities in several countries. But I also recommend that you read it, know it, because it gives so much pressure to move forward in the dialogue on human brotherhood.
In an era like ours, in which the temptation to see a clash between Christian and Islamic civilizations is strong, and also to consider religions as sources of conflict, we wanted to give a further, clear and decisive sign, that instead it is possible to meet, it is possible to respect and dialogue, and that, despite the diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian and Islamic world appreciate and protect common values: life, family, religious sense, honor for the elderly, the education of young people, and others.
About a million Christians live in the United Arab Emirates: workers from various Asian countries. Yesterday morning I met a representation of the Catholic community in St. Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi - a very simple temple - and then, after this meeting, I celebrated for everyone. They were so many! They say that among those inside the stadium, which has capacity for 40 thousand, and those who were in front of the screens outside the stadium, it was 150 thousand! I celebrated the Eucharist in the city stadium, announcing the Gospel of the Beatitudes. In the Mass, concelebrated with the Patriarchs, the Major Archbishops and the Bishops present, we prayed in a special way for peace and justice, with special intention in the Middle East and Yemen.
Dear brothers and sisters, this Journey belongs to the "surprises" of God. We therefore praise him and his providence, and pray that the scattered seeds bear fruit according to his holy will.