Pope Francis holds open air Mass in Abu Dhabi

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Abu Dhabi, Feb 5 (IANS) Pope Francis held an open air Mass in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday as part of his historic trip as the first head of the Catholic Church to the Arabian Peninsula and called on Christians to promote peace in the region.

“It is my hope that you will be like this, rooted in Jesus and ready to do good to those around you. May your communities be oases of peace,” the Pontiff, who arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday on a three-day trip, told over 170,000 worshippers, mostly migrants, at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.

“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 Argentinian Pope as saying.

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“But the Lord is faithful and does not abandon His people.”

The Pope said he came to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to thank the Christians for “the way in which you live the Gospel we heard.

He later thanked the Emirati authorities for their hospitality as his visit came to an end. “As I depart from the UAE, I renew my deep appreciation to your highness, the government and the people of the UAE for your warm welcome and generous hospitality,” the Pontiff said in a message sent to UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“I assure you of my prayers and invoke upon all of you abundant divine blessings,” he added.

On Monday, the Pope called for an end to war, injustice and inequality as he addressed hundreds of representatives from different faiths at an inter-religious meeting, among them Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Egypt’s Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the world’s largest Sunni Islamic centre of learning.

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Highlighting conflicts in regions such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, the pontiff said: “God is with those who seek peace.”

Ahead of his historic trip, Pope Francis called for an end to the conflict in Yemen, which began in late 2014 and has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.

The Pope’s visit to the UAE was to highlight the little known Catholic community in the nation.

The Emirati government has allocated its Christian population land and churches where they can practice their faith, although some restrictions are in place as churches in the UAE are not permitted to have bell towers or crosses for public display and there are no Christian places of worship in two of the country’s seven Emirates.

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–IANS

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