Pope Francis on Tuesday wrapped up his Apostolic Visit to the United Arab Emirates, and our correspondent in Abu Dhabi reflects on the historic occasion.
As soon as I looked at the programme for Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates, I categorized it as a two-fold affair: day one for meeting the Muslim world and pursuing interreligious dialogue; day two for being with Catholics and affirming them in their faith.
That’s what it looked like on paper, with Monday unfolding in an Arabian Palace, a Mosque, and at an interfaith Conference. And Tuesday started with a visit to Abu Dhabi’s Catholic Cathedral and ended with the celebration of Holy Mass in the presence of 180,000 people.
But no sooner had Pope Francis boarded the papal plane taking him back home to the Vatican, my perception of this intense, whirlwind visit, began to change.
One plea for everyone’s ears
There was no division, I realised, between day one and day two. He was not speaking separately to Muslims and then to Catholics. His vision and his mission are – as always – for one human family, and his plea to build a future together “or there will be no future”, was for everyone’s ears.
Someone who never tires of condemning divisiveness, separation, and the erection of barriers of every kind would never perpetrate that kind of mistake!
In fact, at all moments and in all occasions, the first-ever meeting of a Pope with the peoples of the UAE took place in a joyful atmosphere of mutual respect.
The solemnity of the historic occasion was felt by all, as was a palpable gratitude towards the Crown Prince of the UAE for issuing the invitation and towards Pope Francis for accepting it.
The pledge and the message
Of course, many important words were spoken. A pledge of fraternity between a Pope and a Grand Imam was signed to work together in perpetuity and to reject violence and radicalism. The Pope’s own Catholic flock was reminded it is never alone with Jesus at its side.
But at the heart of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage was an urgent reminder to all – no one excluded – that we are called to look after each other as one human family.
The visit will undoubtedly go down in the books as a milestone in Catholic-Muslim relations. But I was in Abu Dhabi for the occasion, and will never forget that over-arching cry for justice, fraternity, and an end to human misery.
By: Linda Bordoni
Source: Vatican News