Pope Francis visits United Arab Emirates
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 2/04/19, 11:09 am
United Arab Emirates officials organized a lavish ceremony on Monday to welcome Pope Francis in the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula. Guards on horseback escorted Francis’ Kia hatchback to the Presidential Palace in the capital, Abu Dhabi. Cannons boomed in a military salute, and airplanes flying over traced out yellow and white smoke lines representing the colors in the Holy See flag.
Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan received Francis when he arrived on Sunday night. During his two-day visit, the pope will meet with Muslim leaders and celebrate Mass for about 135,000 Catholics. Francis said the trip serves as a chance to write “a new page in the history of relations between religions.” He promised the people his prayers and “the divine blessings of peace and fraternal solidarity.” The prince gave him a framed 1963 decree in which the ruler of Abu Dhabi donated the land for the first Catholic church in UAE.
Before his arrival, Francis expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, saying, “The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God.” He called on all parties to work on enforcing a truce in the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen. The UAE continues to back the Yemeni government, which has the support of Saudi Arabia in the nearly four-year war with Iranian-backed rebels. Anwar Gargash, the minister of state for foreign affairs, in a tweet welcomed the pope’s comments and called the truce, agreed to in December, a historic breakthrough. “Let us assure its implementation and make 2019 the year of peace in Yemen,” he wrote.
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Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.