Pope to visit United Arab Emirates in February

2231d982baf219d8a27fa94f99ee5a3e2a148582Pope Francis, who has made boosting ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy, will visit Abu Dhabi in February, the Vatican said Thursday, becoming the first ever pope to visit the Arabian peninsula.

The pontiff, who turns 82 on December 17, has already visited several Muslim countries, including Turkey in 2014, Azerbaijan in 2016 and Egypt in 2017. He is scheduled to visit Morocco in March.

The pontiff was invited to the majority-Muslim country by both Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and the local Catholic church.

“The UAE is delighted to welcome His Holiness Pope Francis on the upcoming visit to the UAE,” tweeted the prince, who met Francis at the Vatican in 2016.

“He is a symbol of peace, tolerance and the promotion of brotherhood. We look forward to a historic visit, through which we will seek dialogue on the peaceful coexistence among peoples,” he said.

Francis will take part in an international “interfaith” meeting during the trip, which will run from February 3 to 5.

– ‘Culture of encounter’ –

The Vatican said the theme for the Abu Dhabi trip was summed up in the phrase “make me a channel of your peace” — a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake.

The hope was the visit would “spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of good will,” it said.

“This visit, like the one to Egypt, shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to inter-religious dialogue,” spokesman Greg Burke said.

“Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter,” he added.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FRANCE24

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UAE visit signals new tone on Islam for Pope Francis

op07-Pope-UAEFor Roman Catholics every pope is infallible in his teachings, even if the incumbent takes a sharply different view from his immediate predecessor.

In Pope Francis, the current bishop of Rome, that observation is certainly true when it comes to the Christian church’s relationship with Islam. The Argentinian-born prelate draws sharp contrast to Pope Benedict, the retired Pope emeritus, when addressing this important relationship.

In his upcoming three-day visit to the UAE in February, Pope Francis is expected to double down on his promotion of tolerance and understanding between Christians and Muslims, a continuation of his outreach to Muslim communities around the world.

During a visit to Egypt in 2017, Pope Francis was clear on the need to stand up to extremism. He condemned the “idolatrous caricatures of God” that underlies violent ideologies.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

Pope visit to Morocco: Encouraging Islam-Christian dialogue

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422The Archbishop of Rabat writes a letter to the people of Morocco on Tuesday confirming the Pope’s March 2019 visit, one which he hopes will expand and encourage interreligious Islam-Christian dialogue.

By Francesca Merlo

In Tuesday’s letter to his “Dear Christian brothers and sisters”, Rabat’s Archbishop, Cristóbal López, reiterates the Holy See Press Office’s announcement that Pope Francis will be visiting Morocco from the 30th to the 31st of March 2019. Archbishop López highlights that there are many Christians in Morocco who are “passing through, on their difficult migration, towards Europe”.

Memories of love and hope

He recalls the 1985 visit of Pope Saint John Paul II, a memory which he says is “still alive”, and a visit, which he says brought “great hope, love and blessings” to the people and the Catholic Church in Morocco.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS 

Pope urges status quo, ‘wisdom and prudence’ for Jerusalem

Pope Francis called on Wednesday for the status quo of Jerusalem to be respected and for “wisdom and prudence” to prevail to avoid further conflict, hours before the expected announcement that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Francis made the appeal during his weekly audience, after speaking with the Palestinian leader and soon after meeting with a delegation of Palestinian religious and intellectual representatives in a previously scheduled audience.

Francis said he was “profoundly concerned” about recent developments concerning Jerusalem, and declared the city a unique and sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims that has a “special vocation for peace.”

“I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts,” he said.

The Vatican has long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Francis spoke by telephone on Tuesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, after President Donald Trump told Abbas of his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Vatican said the call with Francis was made at Abbas’ initiative.

Early Wednesday, Francis met with a delegation of Palestinian religious and intellectual leaders who were at the Vatican for a previously scheduled meeting with the Vatican’s interreligious dialogue office. The Vatican and the Palestinians plan to create a permanent working group on interfaith issues.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS 

Immigrants from Myanmar hope for papal message of compassion

20171011T1159-12137-CNS-POPE-SCHEDULE-MYANMAR-BANGLADESH cropPHOENIX — Muslims and Catholics from Myanmar living in the United States would like Pope Francis to reiterate the message of “compassion for humanity” when the pope visits their country.

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Sheraz Islam, a Rohingya refugee, said the pope is a “holy man and a God-fearing person” and he has “great compassion” for Myanmar’s Rohingya people because of their plight. Regardless of what ethnicity they are, what religion they belong to, or whether they are men or women, “they are a part of humanity,” said Sheraz, who is convinced that is the reason why the pope calls the Rohingya his “brothers and sisters.”

Francis is scheduled to visit Myanmar Nov. 27-30 and Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec.2.

Sheraz was born in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, home to the Rohingya Muslim people since the eighth century. However, Rohingya are not only denied citizenship, but also freedom of movement and education. Their jobs are also restricted. They have faced military crackdowns since the 1970s.

In the most recent attacks, Rohingya survivors recounted stories of sexual assaults, murder and arson of homes in villages in Rakhine state.

Sheraz resettled in the United States in 2012. He said the oppression against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military was not as bad then.

His parents and relatives decided to flee to Bangladesh because of the recent military crackdown. During the four- to five-day journey from Myanmar to Bangladesh, “my father died along the way in early September. It was a difficult journey and he probably died of exhaustion,” Sheraz said.

He hopes that during Francis’ visit, the pope will give the message that Rohingya are a part of humanity, no matter their religion, and that they are suffering from persecution.

The oppression Sheraz referred to was a response by the Myanmar military and Rakhine militants toward Rohingya militants who attacked security checkpoints in late August.

The crackdown — called “ethnic cleansing” by the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights — forced more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The latest arrivals were added to the more than 300,000 Rohingya who had fled attacks in past years.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Balancing act for pope in Egypt with Muslims and Christians

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Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks at a special prayer service honoring Christian martyrs in Rome last weekend to tell the story of a Muslim man who watched Islamist terrorists cut the throat of his Christian wife because she refused to discard her Crucifix.

“He, Muslim, had this cross of pain that he bore without rancor,” the pope said, his voice filled with emotion. “He sought refuge in the love of his wife, graced by martyrdom.”

That anecdote — balancing the murder of a Christian by Islamist militants with a Muslim’s love for his wife — serves as a preview of the pope’s message when he visits Egypt on Friday.

Francis is expected to highlight the plight of Christians amid recent violence in Egypt, while continuing his mission to reach out to Muslims. Even for a politically savvy pope, that is a delicate balancing act, on top of obvious security concerns in a country recently attacked by the Islamic State group (ISIS).

Egypt is still recovering from coordinated Palm Sunday bombings of two Christian churches that killed more than 40 people, nearly killed the head of the Coptic Church and prompted President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to declare a three-month state of emergency.

Francis will lend his support to the roughly 250,000 Roman Catholics in Egypt and insist on the protection of minority rights, including those of its nearly 10 million Coptic Christians, in a meeting Friday with el-Sissi, according to Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian-born Jesuit priest who has seen the pope’s prepared remarks.

He will also meet with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar mosque — Sunni Islam’s most influential training center of imams — and speak at a peace conference organized by the mosque. The pope is scheduled to finish the day by meeting his Coptic Christian counterpart, Pope Tawadros II, who barely escaped the bombings on Palm Sunday.

 “It’s an encounter of consolation, promotion and communion with the small Catholic community,” said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, who is expected to join Francis on the trip. “But it’s of great importance from an ecumenical point of view. And, of course, it is very important for dialogue with Islam, for the meeting with the sheikh of Al-Ahzar.”

Pope Francis denounces barbarity during Egypt visit, preaches tolerance

popeBy Philip Pullella and Mahmoud Mourad

CAIRO (Reuters) – Pope Francis, starting a two-day visit to Egypt, urged Muslim leaders on Friday to unite in renouncing religious extremism at a time when Islamist militants are targeting ancient Christian communities across the Middle East.

Francis’s trip, aimed at improving Christian-Muslim ties, comes just three weeks after Islamic State suicide bombers killed at least 45 people in two Egyptian churches.

“Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God,” the pope told a peace conference at Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar.

Francis is meeting an array of religious and political leaders in his brief stay, telling reporters travelling on his plane that he was carrying a message of peace and unity.

Eschewing the armoured motorcades normally reserved for visiting heads of state, the 80-year-old pontiff instead clambered into a simple Fiat car on his arrival, and, with his window wound down, drove off into the heavily guarded capital.

“Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace,” read posters plastered along the largely deserted road leading from the airport.

He is the second pope to visit Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, following John Paul II, who came in 2000, a year before the September 11 attacks on the United States that convulsed Western relations with the Muslim world.

While Egypt has escaped the sort of violence that has engulfed Syria and Iraq, its Christian community has felt the full force of Islamist militants over the past six months, with bomb attacks in several churches.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WHTC