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Pope Francis Holds Historic Public Mass Service In United Arab Emirates

Pope Francis on Tuesday held a public mass for an estimated 170,000 Catholics, as he wrapped up his historic three-day trip to the United Arab Emirates. An enthusiastic crowd waving Vatican flags greeted Francis—the first-ever pontiff to visit a Sunni Muslim Gulf country—as he rode into Zayed Sports City Stadium to preside over the unprecedented open-air service. It comes a day after the pope called for an end to the wars in Syria and Yemen at an interfaith summit attended by top Islamic scholars and rabbis. Francis also held talks with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Cairo’s Al-Azhar which is Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seat of learning. The religious leaders thereafter signed a document on “human fraternity for world peace and living together” that the Vatican described as an “important step forward in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims.” Approximately 1 million Christians live in the UAE, which is considered a beacon of tolerance compared to other regional countries such as Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslim houses of worship are banned.

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