Pope Francis has ended his three-day visit to Arabia. The closing mass at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City Stadium was attended by more than 120.000 people attended, including about 4.000 Muslims.
At noon on Tuesday (local time), Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan saw off Pope Francis at the presidential airport in the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi. Both held hands and spoke a few words with the help of an interpreter before the pope boarded the Boeing 787-9 of the national carrier Ethiad Airways.
As of Sunday, Francis was the first pope in history to visit the Arabian Peninsula. The visit was marked by interfaith dialogue. In his central address Monday at an interfaith conference, Francis condemned wars and called for religious freedom and peace and brotherhood.
With the rector of Cairo's Al-Azhar University, Grand Imam Ahmad Mohammad Al-Tayyeb, one of the most important scholars in the Islamic world, the pope signed a joint declaration on the theme of "human brotherhood". The document calls for solidarity among all people and respect for human rights, condemns hatred and bloodshed, and violence, especially terrorism, which instrumentalizes religion.
Joint declaration for peace
The Catholic Church leader and the rector of Cairo's Al-Azhar University had signed the document Tuesday evening – to applause at the end of a two-day interfaith meeting on "Human Fraternity" in Abu Dhabi. The document calls for solidarity among all people and respect for human rights, condemns hatred and bloodshed, as well as violence, especially terrorism, which instrumentalizes religion.
On the other hand, the role of religions in building peace in the world is emphasized. "With this document, we commit ourselves and ask the masterminds of international politics and economics to make a serious commitment to promoting a culture of tolerance, coexistence and peace," the statement reads. Bloodshed must be prevented, conflicts, wars and environmental degradation must be stopped.
Francis and Al-Tayyeb call for equal rights for all citizens of a country, freedom of religion as well as freedom of expression. They also made special mention of protecting the rights of children and the elderly. In addition, the right of women to education, work and hold political office must also be recognized, he said. In their statement, the Pope and the Grand Imam also explicitly condemn sexual exploitation. Likewise, they are directed against individualism and materialism. They also express concern about a decline in moral values. "We condemn all practices that threaten life, such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, organ trafficking, abortion, euthanasia and policies that support all of these," the document said.
Pope's visit a sign of pastoral care, he said
Pope Francis celebrated a large church service at the end of his trip. The mass at the Zayed Sports Stadium was attended by more than 120, according to church sources.000 people attended, including some 4.000 Muslims. At the closing Mass, Francis thanked all participants. He mentioned Chaldean, Coptic, Greek Catholic, Melkite, Latin, Maronite, Syriac Catholic, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar Christians. Francis also thanked the Catholic bishop for southern Arabia, Swiss Bishop Paul Hinder, for his work.
Hinder spoke of a "historic moment" in his welcoming remarks. The pope's visit to the United Arab Emirates is a sign of pastoral care for "this Church made up of migrants from all over the world," the Capuchin said. He said Christians in the Arabian Peninsula want to live their faith there according to St. Francis and profess their faith without dispute. There was clear applause when Bishop Hinder thanked Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid and the government for making the historic papal visit to Abu Dhabi possible. They had made Zayed Stadium available free of charge for the papal mass.
Be oases of peace
Francis encouraged the Christians of the Arabian Peninsula in their faith and commitment to peace. They should be rooted in Jesus and do good. In his homily this noon, he said, "Let your communities be oases of peace." Further he said: "Who is right, Jesus or the world? To understand, we look at how Jesus lived: Poor in material things and rich in love he healed many lives, but did not spare his own. He came to serve, not to be served; he taught us that it is not he who has who is great, but he who gives."
The vast majority of Christians in the Arabian Peninsula are migrant workers, mainly from India, Pakistan and the Philippines. The intercessions of the Pope's Mass were recited in different languages. "You are a choir that includes a diversity of nations, languages and rites" said Francis; "a diversity that the Holy Spirit loves and wants to bring more and more into harmony to make of it a symphony". The Pope thanked them for their commitment; they all gave witness to the faith and built up the Church.
In his homily, the 82-year-old head of the Church also recalled St. Francis of Assisi's encounter with Egyptian Sultan Malik al-Kamil exactly 800 years ago. It is important to follow the example of the saint and avoid disputes, he said. The pope ared the faithful that God would stand by them even in difficult times and urged them to "live united with God even in affliction". He called Christians to "holiness of everyday life". To this end, he referred to the biblical beatitudes. They asked not to "perform superhuman feats, but to follow Jesus in everyday life".