Source: Vatican Media
During his General Audience with pilgrims today, gathered in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis reflected on his Apostolic Journey to the United Arab Emirates. Although the visit was brief, he said the Apostolic Journey to the United Arab Emirates "wrote a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam."
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."
The Holy Father 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."
Pope Francis noted that there is "a strong temptation" in our day "to see a clash between Christian and Islamic civilisation, 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."
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 concluded. "So let praise Him and His providence, and pray that the seeds sown might bring forth fruits according to His holy will."
At the end of his General Audience Pope Francis made an appeal for the victims of a boat tragedy in which 28 Haitian migrants drowned while trying to reach the Bahamas.
He said "last Saturday, near the Bahamas archipelago, a boat sank, carrying dozens of migrants from Haiti in search of hope and a peaceful future. My affectionate thoughts go out to the families who are in pain, as well as to the Haitian people affected by this new tragedy. I invite you to join me in praying for those who have tragically lost their lives and for the wounded."
The boat which had been transporting the migrants sank in waters near the island of Abaco in the Bahamas. 17 survivors were rescued.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) said that this year alone, some 300 Haitians had been caught for illegal entry in separate incidents. In Haiti more than 60 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day.
There are also regular attempts to reach the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos islands illegally.
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