Muslims In The Middle East Urged To 'Embrace' Christians

Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead mass for an estimated 170,000 Catholics at the Zayed Sports City Stadium

Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead mass for an estimated 170,000 Catholics at the Zayed Sports City Stadium

Pope Francis' trip has been warmly welcomed by Filipino and Indian Catholics among the UAE's huge migrant workforce.

Shortly before departing for Abu Dhabi on Sunday, Francis said he was following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with great concern, using his regular Sunday address in Vatican City to urge all sides to implement the deal and help deliver aid.

It was Pope Francis' seventh visit to a predominantly Muslim country, signaling a continuation of the Vatican's aim of improving ties between Catholics and the Islamic world. His trip culminates on February 5 with the first-ever papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula - a gathering expected to draw some 135,000 people in a never-before-seen display of public Christian worship here.

"I am greatly inspired by the powerful faith and determination of Christians in the UAE who have established a remarkable 700 Christian churches and ministries throughout the country", Perkins said in a statement.

A British native, Hellyer also discusses his participation in a significant archaeological discovery in 1992: that of a 7th century Christian monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island near Abu Dhabi.

"Despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record", Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church was greeted at the Presidential Palace by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and his entourage in the Emirati capital this morning.

Christian worshipers attend a mass led by Pope Francis at the Zayed Sports City Stadium
Christian worshipers attend a mass led by Pope Francis at the Zayed Sports City Stadium

The main English daily, Arab News, ran a picture of the pope and Abu Dhabi's crown prince calling it "the moment that made history on the Arabian Peninsula". Catholics believe the communion host and wine become the body and blood of Christ when consecrated by a priest during the Mass.

Pope Francis spoke alongside Sheik Ashamed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the 1,000 year old seat of Sunni Islam.

Meanwhile, secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Ali al-Qaradaghi, a Doha-based body, said that while the union supports dialogue and interfaith dialogue, the pope's visit to the UAE may be interpreted as an endorsement for human rights violations and despotism.

Sheikh Tayeb and the pope signed a document of "human fraternity" which carried a message against religious extremism.

But the Pope did not shirk the weight of his moral duty to speak out on behalf of the innocent in Yemen, of immigrant workers without citizenship, of religious minorities without full freedoms.

He has used the visit to condemn regional wars, including in Yemen, where the UAE makes up part of a Saudi-led military coalition.

Out of the roughly nine million people living in the UAE, the Catholic Church estimates as many as one million are Catholic.

KC area schools to close early Tuesday; slick roads possible
Whenever there is a threat of severe weather , Environment Canada puts out an alert to inform citizens in affected areas. A mix of patchy freezing drizzle, light freezing rain and snow is possible Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

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