The head of the catholic church and Vatican head of state, Pope Francis, has began a three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates in the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.
The pontiff was on Monday received in Dubai, the emirate’s capital, in a pompous ceremony witnessed by huge crowds. He addressed an interfaith gathering upon arrival calling for global peace and an end to the wars in the Arab world specifically mentioning Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq.
The Vatican leader urged the present religious leaders to use their platforms to advocate peace and shun division and wars. He also warned of the dangers of a third world war faced by the world today.
At the end of his address which was attended by Imams, muftis, Sikhs, Swamis and Zoroastrians, the pope together with sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb – the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam – signed a joint statement on “human fraternity” and their hopes for world peace.
The two religious leaders later laid the cornerstone for the building of a mosque and church to be built side-by-side in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.
Today, the pope is expected to lead a mass for 135,000 of the catholic residents of the UAE in what is expected to be the largest public gathering in the emirate.