An estimated 180,000 people attended the first-ever papal visit to take place in the cradle of Islam — the Arabian Peninsula — on Tuesday to celebrate what has been dubbed the “Year of Tolerance.”
Pope Francis wrapped up his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates Tuesday by delivering a mass to adoring Catholics at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
His visit marks the first time in the 1,400 years of Islamic history that a sitting pontiff has been invited by a Muslim leader to deliver a sermon on the same peninsula that also birthed the religion of Islam and houses two of its holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.
According to American evangelical leader Johnnie Moore, who serves on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom and is the chair of the recently-formed Congress of Christian Leaders, “it is impossible to exaggerate [the visit’s] significance.”
Cheers erupted as Pope Francis entered the stadium. Initial estimates say that there were about 135,000 in attendance. However, the UAE government now estimates the attendance was around 180,000.
Portions of the 90-minute mass were delivered in English, Italian, Arabic, Tagalog, Hindi and Korean.
The pope’s sermon offered a message of hope to the poor Catholics in attendance, centering his message around the Beatitudes “blessed are the meek” and “blessed are the merciful,” according to Gulf News.
“The Christian life means living out the joy of this blessedness, wanting to live life as a love story, the story of God’s faithful love, he who never abandons us and wishes to be in communion with us always,” the pope was quoted as saying.
On Monday, Pope Francis signed onto a joint declaration with the grand imam of the prestigious Al-Azhar University, His Eminence Dr. Ahmad Al Tayyeb, titled “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith