Papal blessing brings curtain down on historic Gulf visit

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About 180,000 were at Zayed Sports City Stadium to hear the Papal Mass. (AFP)
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About 180,000 were at Zayed Sports City Stadium to hear the Papal Mass. (Ziyad Alarfaj/AN)
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Pope Francis has told the Catholic faithful that they need not build great works to be faithful. (AFP)
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Pope Francis celebrates the first Papal Mass in the Arabian Gulf. (AFP)
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Pope Francis blesses a young girl as he arrives to celebrate a Papal Mass at Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. (Vatican Media/Reuters)
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Pope Francis blesses children at the Saint Joseph Cathedral in Abu Dhabi, on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Vatican Media/AFP)
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Organizers said faithful from 100 countries attended Pope Francis’ Papal Mass, as well as 4,000 Muslims. (AFP)
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Pope Francis blesses children at the Saint Joseph Cathedral in Abu Dhabi, on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Vatican Media/AFP)
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An Emirati takes a picture during a Papal Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium. (AFP)
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One of the Catholic faithful who heard the Papal Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019

Papal blessing brings curtain down on historic Gulf visit

  • Pope Francis reinforced the Christian themes of religious humility, understanding and peace

ABU DHABI: The curtain fell on the historic visit of Pope Francis to the Arabian Peninsula at a Catholic mass in front of an estimated 180,000 worshippers in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

He reinforced the Christian themes of religious humility, understanding and peace. Sharing an altar with Christian and Muslim leaders, Francis delivered a 25-minute homily rich in Christian tradition.

Delivered in Italian followed by an Arabic translation from an assistant beside him on the outdoor altar, the pope assured the congregation that they were each blessed.

“Dear brothers and sisters, in the joy of meeting you, this is the word that I have come today to say to you: Blessed,” he said.

Much of the mass — which lasted one hour and 45 minutes — was in English, with key parts of the liturgy in traditional church Latin.

 

 

“You are a choir composed of numerous nations, languages and rites, a diversity that the holy spirit loves and wants to harmonize ever more, in order to make a symphony,” Francis said.

“This joyful polyphony of faith is a witness that you give everyone, and that builds up the church.”

He based his sermon on the Beatitudes, a series of eight blessings from the Bible that he used to underline the anti-materialistic message that he had highlighted in his speech on the first day of his visit.

“We see in them (the Beatitudes) an overturning of that popular thinking, according to which it is the rich and the powerful that are blessed,” the pope said.

“For Jesus, on the other hand, blessed are the poor, the meek, those who remain just even at the cost of appearing in a bad light, those who are persecuted … He was poor in respect of things, but wealthy in love. He healed so many lives, but did not spare his own.”

Francis had a message for the expatriate Catholics among the congregation: “It is certainly not easy for you to live far from home, missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also uncertainty about the future. But the Lord is faithful and does not abandon His people.”

The mass was attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s minster of tolerance, and by the grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, Ahmed Al-Tayeb. Also present was Bishop Paul Hinder, head of the Catholic Church in southern Arabia.

 

 

To resounding cheers, Hinder thanked Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who originally extended the invitation to the pope.

The bishop said: “We Christians try to implement the thought that St. Francis gave to his time, to his brothers, and to live spiritually among the Muslims, and not to engage in argument, but simply in the knowledge that we are Christians.”


Hospital: Palestinian official Erekat in critical condition

Updated 36 min 4 sec ago

Hospital: Palestinian official Erekat in critical condition

  • Erekat on Monday was in critical condition and breathing with a ventilator after his coronavirus infection worsened
  • Erekat has been one of the Palestinians’ most recognizable faces over the past 30 years

JERUSALEM: Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat on Monday was in critical condition and breathing with a ventilator after his coronavirus infection worsened overnight, said the Israeli hospital treating him.
Hadassah Medical Center described Erekat’s case as extremely challenging given his history of health problems, including a lung transplant performed in the United States three years ago. It said he suffered from a weak immune system and a bacterial infection in addition to COVID-19.
It said Erekat, 65, was sedated and that its most senior doctors were consulting with international experts on how best to manage such a complicated case.
Erekat has been one of the Palestinians’ most recognizable faces over the past 30 years, serving as their senior negotiator during on-again off-again peace talks. He also was a top aide to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. A fluent English speaker, the Western-educated Erekat also makes frequent appearances in the media.
Erekat was transferred to Hadassah on Sunday at the request of the Palestinian Authority, despite the Palestinians’ decision this year to sever ties with Israel. The Palestinians cut off ties to protest Israel’s pledge to begin annexing occupied West Bank land as part of President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since frozen the annexation plan.