ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Pope Francis grew to become the primary pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula on Sunday, simply hours after issuing his strongest condemnation but of the struggle in Yemen, the place his host the United Arab Emirates has a number one army position.
Shortly earlier than departing for Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis stated he was following the humanitarian disaster in Yemen with nice concern, utilizing his common Sunday tackle in Vatican City to induce all sides to implement a fragile peace deal and assist ship assist to tens of millions of hungry individuals.
“The cry of these children and their parents rise up to God,” he informed tens of hundreds of individuals in St. Peter’s Square.
“Let us pray strongly because they are children who are hungry, who are thirsty, they don’t have medicine and they are in danger of death,” he stated earlier than boarding his flight.
Television footage confirmed Francis being greeted on arrival by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who escorted him to satisfy Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar mosque, whom the pontiff embraced.
Both males will maintain conferences with Pope Francis on Monday.
The UAE performs a number one position in the Saudi-led coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group to revive the internationally recognised authorities in the practically four-year struggle that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
The United Nations is attempting to implement a truce and troop withdrawal deal in the primary Yemeni port of Hodeidah that was agreed in December talks as a trust-building step that might pave the way in which for political negotiations to finish the battle.
Vatican officers have stated it isn’t clear whether or not Pope Francis will tackle the delicate topic in public or non-public throughout his visit to Abu Dhabi, which is geared toward selling interfaith dialogue.
The pope will meet Muslim leaders and have fun an outside mass for some 120,000 Catholics. He has stated the journey, which ends on Tuesday, is a chance to write down “a new page in the history of relations between religions”.
The UAE, which named 2019 its Year of Tolerance, says the visit displays its historical past as a “cradle of diversity”.
But it faces criticism from human rights teams for jailing activists, together with Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati who’s serving a 10-year sentence for criticizing the federal government on social media.
“We are calling on Pope Francis to raise the issue of their incarceration with his hosts, and urge their immediate and unconditional release,” Amnesty International stated in an announcement on Saturday.
UAE authorities didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Priests and diplomats describe the UAE as one of the vital open environments in the Gulf for Christian worship. But like its neighbors, the UAE doesn’t enable dissent or criticism of its management.
The UAE is house to round half of an estimated two million expatriate Catholics dwelling in the peninsula, a territory which additionally hosts Islam’s holiest websites in Saudi Arabia.
All Gulf states besides Saudi Arabia enable Christian worship in church buildings or church compounds and different premises with particular licenses. In Saudi Arabia, non-Muslims pray in secret gatherings in non-public properties and embassies.
Abu Dhabi’s crown prince is an ally of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has reached out to Christian representatives overseas as a part of makes an attempt to open up the conservative kingdom.
The pope has already visited half a dozen predominantly Muslim nations throughout his reign, utilizing the journeys to name for inter-religious dialogue and to sentence the usage of violence in the identify of God.
The UAE ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, wrote in an op-ed in Politico journal on Sunday that the pontiff’s visit despatched a sign of co-existence and respect in the face of the “menace of extremism” throughout the Middle East.