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Sun, 17 Nov 2019 15:59 GMT

Flying Home from UAE, Pope Speaks of a New Dialogue with Islam

Politics

Roberto Tumbarello

Fri, 08 Feb 2019 14:29 GMT

On the plane back to Rome from Abu Dhabi Pope Francis is a happy man. He knows he has created a solid bridge between the Catholic and Muslim worlds. From now on relationships will be different. Now there is friendship.

Francis is not tired, even though his assistants invite him to rest, after a pastoral visit so intense and demanding in a land once hostile, now a friend - even a brother. He talks to journalists, answers all their questions, and clearly feels the need to share his satisfaction and trust in future relations with Islam.

"The only bad thing is that the trip was too short", says the Pope in the microphone to the accompanying international press. "For me it was a great and wonderful experience. I saw a welcoming, modern and hospitable country that looks to the future made up of many peoples who go there to work. The Emirates are rich but also wise. In fact, they are already preparing for the end of the oil era.

"I was struck by the education given to children, by the cleanliness of the city, by the integration of foreigners. It is an open country, even as regards religion. Islam is open to dialogue. The inter-religious convention was also exceptional. Everybody, not only the Great Imam, prayed with me for the delivery of the document, which condemns the dangers that the world is facing at this time: destruction, war, hatred between us. This document was born from faith in God and peace. Also on Yemen I found good will to pursue a peace process.

"The welcome ceremonies organised by the Crown Prince touched me because they were gestures of goodwill. In fact, even in his palace I found a great reception. Someone said that my visit was a blessing. It means the document on brotherhood has been shared by everyone. The wise men say that violence against Christians is not from Islam but from terrorism, which in fact the council of elders condemns.

"Among them was a Shiite who approved the document unconditionally. Of course, there are also differences within Islam but the process is just beginning and starting to mature. The document will now be studied in schools and universities. Debates will develop and certain currents of thought will be born.

"The interventions of the elders during the Muslim Council at the Great Mosque proved very valuable. Their keywords were "clarity" and "loyalty", two fundamental terms for the construction of peace and friendship among peoples. I was impressed by so much wisdom. It is a guarantee for the Grand Imam to be assisted by a council of this magnitude.

"In a month I will go to Morocco and perhaps have an opportunity to assess views on the trip to the UAE. I have received, in the meantime, other invitations from Arab countries which I will certainly accept though unfortunately not this year, which is already all planned. I am carrying out the ecumenical project of St. John Paul II, for whom dialogue with Islam was a priority. He was criticised, but he was right. Perhaps he was before his time, but he could see ahead. The path that started in Abu Dhabi is the right one to world peace.”

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