ABU DHABI – Pope Francis called on Monday for condemning religious violence in a speech delivered in the United Arab Emirates during the first-ever visit to the Arabian Peninsula by any Catholic pontiff.
The pope made these remarks at an inter-religious meeting held in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi.
“In the name of God the Creator, therefore, every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation, because we gravely profane God’s name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or sister. No violence can be justified in the name of religion,” Francis said.
“Religious behavior needs continually to be purified from the recurrent temptation to judge others as enemies and adversaries,” he added.
“There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future,” the pope said during the ceremony held at the Founder’s Memorial, which pays tribute to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s first president.
“Religions, in particular, cannot renounce the urgent task of building bridges between peoples and cultures,” he added.
“The time has come when religions should more actively exert themselves, with courage and audacity, and without pretense, to help the human family deepen the capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope and the concrete paths of peace,” Francis said.
With this mission of peace, the Pope came to the UAE on the 800th anniversary of the meeting held between Saint Francis of Assisi and Al-Malik al-Kamil, a sultan of Egypt from the Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty.
Francis gifted the UAE’s crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a medal during their private meeting.
“I have welcomed the opportunity to come here as a believer thirsting for peace, as a brother seeking peace with the brethren. We are here to desire peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace,” the pope said.
“Here, in just a few years, with farsightedness and wisdom, the desert has been transformed into a prosperous and hospitable place. From being an unapproachable and inaccessible obstacle, the desert has become a meeting place between cultures and religions,” he added.
The pontiff concluded his speech by mentioning the situation in the war-torn countries of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, adding “God is with those who seek peace.”