Pope Francis welcomed at the UAE presidential palace

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Pope Francis is welcomed by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum in Abu Dhabi

Pope Francis welcomed at the UAE presidential palace

AP

Pope Francis opened his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, February 4, with a grandiose, pomp-filled welcome ceremony before he was to address faith leaders in a show of religious tolerance in a Muslim region known for its restrictions on religious freedom.

Francis' visit is the first by a pontiff to the Arabian peninsula, where he will meet with Muslim and political leaders and celebrate an outdoor Mass in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi.

The Pontiff arrived at the presidential palace in a simple Kia hatchback on Monday, February 4, where he was greeted with an artillery salute and military flyover by a country now at war.

Even for a nation known for its excesses, the Emiratis' red-carpet welcome was remarkable for a Pope who prides himself on simplicity. It featured horse-mounted guards escorting the pontiff's motorcade through the palace gardens while the flyover trailed the yellow and white smoke of the Holy See flag as cannons boomed.

Francis stood somberly between Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Emirati vice president and prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as the Vatican and Emirati anthems played and delegations were introduced.

Pope Francis' speech to the gathering of faith leaders later in the evening is the highlight of his brief, 40-hour visit to Abu Dhabi. His trip culminates on Tuesday, February 5, with the first-ever papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula — a gathering expected to draw some 135,000 faithful in a never-before-seen display of public Christian worship here.

Pope Francis arrived in the Emirati capital late on Sunday, hours after making an appeal from the Vatican for urgent observation of a limited cease-fire in war-torn Yemen so that food and medicine can get to its people, who are suffering the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 11:59
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