By Christopher Wells
Although brief, the Apostolic Journey to the United Arab Emirates “wrote a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam,” Pope Francis said Wednesday, “and in the commitment to promote peace in the world on the basis of human fraternity”.
Keeping the love of Christ at heart
Speaking at the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis said that he was mindful that his Journey — the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula — came during the 800th anniversary of St Francis of Assisi’s encounter with the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. “I thought about St Francis during this journey”, the Pope said. “It helped me to keep the Gospel, the love of Jesus Christ, in my heart as I experienced the various moments of the visit”.
Sons and daughters of God
Pope Francis went on to reflect on some of the high points of the Journey. He pointed to the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity, with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, which the Pope said represents another step forward. In this document, he said, “we affirmed the common vocation of all men and women to be brothers and sisters, insofar as all are children of God”. The two leaders also condemned “every form of violence, especially those clothed in religious motivations”, and committed themselves “to spreading authentic values and peace throughout the world”. The Holy Father encouraged people to read the Document “because it gives so much impetus to move forward in the dialogue on human fraternity”.
Defending common values
Pope Francis noted that there is “a strong temptation” in our day “to see a clash between Christian and Islamic civilization, and to consider religions as a source of conflicts”. He explained that the signing of the document was meant to be a “clear and decisive” sign that, “despite a diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian world and the Islamic world appreciate and defend common values”.
Praying for peace and justice
Finally, the Holy Father reflected on his encounter with the Christian people who live in the UAE. During the Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium, he said, “we prayed in a particular way for peace and justice, with special intentions for the Middle East, and for Yemen” in particular.
The Apostolic Journey to the United Arab Emirates “relates to the ‘surprises’ of God”, the Pope said in conclusion. “So let praise Him and His providence, and pray that the seeds sown might bring forth fruits according to His holy will”.