Published: Thu, February 07, 2019
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Kiss for world peace? Pope and Imam lock lips in freakish photograph

Kiss for world peace? Pope and Imam lock lips in freakish photograph

The pope was expected to raise the issue of Yemen, devastated by a war in which the UAE is a key player, in talks with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

The pontiff waved at the enthusiastic crowd carrying yellow Vatican flags and banners as he rode in an open-top Popemobile into Zayed Sports City Stadium, where an altar with a large cross was set up for the unprecedented open-air service in a country that normally restricts worship to inside churches.

The son of Italian immigrants who was raised in Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio - or Pope Francis - has paid particular attention to migrants and refugees during his papacy.

"Let us pray loudly", Francis said, "because there are children that are hungry, are thirsty, don't have medicine and their lives are in danger".

Vatican officials have said it is not clear whether Pope Francis will address the sensitive subject in public or private during his visit to Abu Dhabi, which is aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue.

Pope Francis smiles upon his arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE capital February 3, 2019.

An opinion piece in Saudi-owned, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat praised the visit and its message of tolerance and coexistence, which it said confronted a discourse of extremism in the region.

Francis blesses a child as he arrives at Tuesday's Mass

The Pope kisses a child during a visit to the St Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

It's the brainchild of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islam learning that trains clerics and scholars from around the world.

But if you're not one of the 135,000 Catholics who managed to secure a ticket, and traveled overnight to get to the stadium, you can still watch the Papal Mass in Abu Dhabi live. They will visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque together and the Pontiff and will also meet the Muslim Council of Elders.

He has used the visit to condemn regional wars, including in Yemen, where the UAE makes up part of a Saudi-led military coalition. He has said the trip would write "a new page in the history of relations between religions".

Vatican officials said before the trip that it was not clear whether the pope would address the subject of the almost four-year Yemen war in public or private during the trip. He's even being allowed to hold the first Papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula.

The document, which was signed at a gathering of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths, pledges peace, freedom and women's rights.

Meanwhile, many migrant workers - predominantly from South Asia, many of whom form a large part of the country's Christian population - continue to be vulnerable to forced labour inside the Gulf Kingdom, despite foreign nationals account for almost 90 percent of the UAE's population.

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