02/04/2019, 11.40
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Pope officially welcomed to Emirates

Francis visits the presidential palace. It is the first trip of a Pope to the United Arab Emirates and, more generally, to the Arabian peninsula. Gisotti: "an important opportunity to promote and strengthen interreligious dialogue".

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) - With the visit, this morning, to the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the official part of Pope Francis's visit to the Arab Emirates began. The pontiff arrived in the Gulf nation yesterday afternoon at 10 pm, local time, (17 , 50 GMT). During the flight, Francis greeted the journalists noting: "This morning I had the news that it was raining in Abu Dhabi and this in that place is thought of as a sign of blessing. We hope that everything goes this way ".

It is the first trip of a Pope to the United Arab Emirates and, more generally, to the Arabian peninsula and has the motto "Make me an instrument of your peace". Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, defined it as "an important opportunity to promote and strengthen interreligious dialogue and to promote and strengthen a community, such as the Catholic one, which is extremely dynamic and formed above all by immigrants, in particular Asians, Filipinos but not only, who are in the United Arab Emirates for work".

The visit to the Presidential Palace is also the official welcoming ceremony. Upon his arrival, the Pope's car was escorted by presidential guards on horseback to the main entrance of the Palace, where Francis was welcomed by the Crown Prince (pictured).

After the military honors, the anthems were performed and the respective delegations presented. At 12.20 local (8.20 GMT) the private meeting took place, which lasted about 20 minutes, at the end of which there was the exchange of gifts . The Crown Prince gave the Pope the notarial deed of June 22, 1963, with the donation of the land for the construction of the first church in the United Arab Emirates, while Francis offered a medal that depicts the meeting between St. Francis and the Sultan Malek al-Kamel, in 1219.

Accompanying Francis during his stay is the Great Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib, the highest spiritual authority in the Sunni world. he welcomed the Pope for the fifth time, at the airport. The Great Imam then accompanied Francis to the Mushrif Palace, a residence of honor available to distinguished guests, which will serve as accommodation for the entire stay of the Pope given that the United Arab Emirates does not have a nunciature.

In the afternoon of today, the private meeting with members of the Muslim Council of Elders - the Council of the Muslim Sages, presided over by the great imam of al-Azhar - and following the great interreligious meeting at the Founder's Memorial, where the Pope will hold the first official speech.

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