Pope in UAE Day 2


The UAE borders Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites in Islam, but unlike its neighbor allows Christians to practice their faith discreetly.

Pope Francis will visit the UAE this year for a landmark, three-day visit.

The pope's public comments in Abu Dhabi have centered on calls to end wars across the Middle East and protect the rights of all citizens.

Earlier this morning, the Head of the Catholic Church led the first-ever papal Mass in the Arabian Peninsula, which was attended by around 135,000 people at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

In a homily on Tuesday, he turned to the tens of thousands of migrant workers living in the Emirates.

"It is most certainly not easy for you to live far from home, missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future", Efe news quoted the Pope as saying.

During the interreligious conference and even the large mass in Abu Dhabi, the pope spoke of Saint Francis and his instructions on how his brethren were to approach Saracens and non-Christians: "At that time, as many people were setting out, heavily armed, Saint Francis pointed out that Christians set out armed only with their humble faith and concrete love".

The ceremony capped off a trip to the UAE that saw the Pope condemn the war in Yemen, in which his hosts have played a pivotal role, and call for religious freedom across the region.

Most of the UAE's population is Muslim, but the country contains about 1.2 million Christians, most of which are expatriates from India and the Philippines.

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Asian nationals makeup about 65 percent of the population and are crucial to all sectors in the Gulf state, from construction to services and hotels.

Pope Francis and Sheikh Mohammed smiled and spoke to each other as they walked through the airport. Some 50,000 people packed inside the venue, while another 120,000 watched via video link on large screens outside.

"There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future", Francis told Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince and hundreds of imams, muftis, ministers, rabbis and swamis gathered in the Emirati capital at a time when the UAE-backed Saudi war in Yemen has driven the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of starvation.

He also praised the courage of a little girl who broke through the police barricades to hand-deliver a letter to the pope as he zoomed around Abu Dhabi's sports stadium before Mass in his pope mobile.

The pope is in the UAE as part of Abu Dhabi's so-called Year of Tolerance.

Tolerance Minister Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, greeted the crowd at the stadium before the pope's arrival for mass.

The pope said all religious leaders had a "duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war". "Its fateful consequences are before our eyes", he said, naming Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Yemen is the scene of what the United Nations calls the world´s worst humanitarian crisis, triggered by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies in a war between the government and Houthi rebels.

Francis' visit to the region represents what Poggioli calls "an important encounter.in an area where those people, that community, is growing at the same time that long-established Christian communities in the Middle East are dwindling".