Pope Francis wraps up UAE trip with stadium Mass | News | DW | 05.02.2019
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Pope Francis wraps up UAE trip with stadium Mass

Pope Francis has held Mass with tens of thousands of Catholics at a stadium in Abu Dhabi. He is the first leader of the Catholic Church ever to set foot on the Arabian peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

More than 130,000 worshipers flocked to the Zayed Sports City Stadium in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, on Tuesday to celebrate a Mass with Pope Francis.

The pontiff's two-day trip to the Muslim-majority United Arab Emirates aims to promote greater understanding between faiths.

Read morePope Francis reaches out to UAE's migrant-driven Christian population

Francis was greeted by a cheering crowd waving Vatican banners as he arrived at the stadium standing on the open rear section of a "popemobile." Organizers said Catholics from 100 countries, as well as about 4,000 Muslims, were expected to attend.

Pope Francis delivers Mass

The Catholic community in the UAE is a thriving and diverse group

Diverse migrant workforce

The UAE is home to about half of the 2 million expatriate Catholics living on the Arabian peninsula, most them Filipinos and Indians who've come to the oil-rich nation for work.

"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," the pope said during the service, which was broadcast live on Emirati television. "But the Lord is faithful and does not abandon his people."

He told his followers, many of them poor manual laborers, that they need not build "superhuman" works to be faithful.

Jesus "did not ask us to build great works or draw attention to ourselves with extraordinary gestures," he said. "He asked us to produce just one work of art, possible for everyone: our own life."

While returning from his trip, the pope admitted that priests and bishops in the Catholic Church had sexually abused nuns.

"There are some priests and also bishops who have done it," the pontiff said in response to a journalist's question on the abuse of nuns.

Read morePope Francis' visit to UAE sends 'message of coexistence'

Earlier in the day, Francis prayed with the faithful at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE is an Islamic country with mainly Asian migrants making up the majority of its population of 9 million. Unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, which outlaws all non-Muslim places of worship, Abu Dhabi allows its Christian minority to practice their faith discreetly.

Call to end war

At the start of his papal visit on Monday, Francis met with Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other UAE leaders at the presidential palace. He also signed a document promoting "human fraternity" with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni Muslim learning.

During an address to a gathering of interfaith leaders, he called for an end to wars in the Middle East, including in Yemen and Syria.

All religious leaders had a "duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word war," he said.

Human rights groups had called on Francis to use his trip to press UAE leaders about the repression of political activists and the government's involvement in the war in Yemen.

The UAE is a key member of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Iran-allied rebels in impoverished Yemen since 2015. Stalled efforts to implement a cease-fire have made it difficult for humanitarian aid to reach civilians, with millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation.

nm/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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