Pope Francis, the first leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to visit the Arabian Peninsula, opens an interfaith meeting in the UAE on Monday as part of his outreach to Muslims.
Pope Francis is opening his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates on Monday with the federation's leader and a group of Muslim elders before addressing faith leaders in a show of religious tolerance in a Muslim region known for its restrictions on religious freedom.
Francis' speech to the gathering later in the evening is the highlight of his brief, 40-hour visit to Abu Dhabi. His trip culminates on Tuesday 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.
Francis arrived in the Emirati capital late on Sunday and was greeted by Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who hosts him at his palace for Monday's official welcome ceremony.
Francis arrival followed his surprising appeal on Sunday at the Vatican for the urgent observation of a limited cease-fire in Yemen and for food and medicine to get to its people, who are suffering the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The Emirates has been Saudi Arabia's main ally in its war in Yemen and Francis' pre-trip appeal was a way for him to avoid embarrassing his hosts with a public denunciation of the humanitarian costs of the war while in the region.
"The cries of these children and their parents rise up" to God, he said from the Vatican before heading to Rome's airport for his flight.