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The Latest: Pope, senior Muslim cleric pledge hope for peace

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis's visit to the United Arab Emirates (all times local): 8:25 p.m. Pope Francis and the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam, have signed a statement with their hopes for world peace and human understanding.

The two signed the document Monday night during the pope's visit to the United Arab Emirates. It is the first papal visit ever to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam. The document describes itself as being in the name of "all victims of wars, persecution and injustice; . and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction." It also decried modern "signs of a 'third world war being fought piecemeal.'"

The United Arab Emirates is deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which faces widespread international criticism for airstrikes killing civilians and the conflict pushing the country to the brink of famine.

The document says: "We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood." The statement also says countries have a duty to establish a concept of "full citizenship." The UAE relies heavily on foreign laborers who have no path to naturalization.

8 p.m.

The head of Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning has told an audience that includes Pope Francis and hundreds of other religious figures from around the world that Islam is a religion of peace that values human life.

At an event Monday evening during the first-ever papal visit to the Gulf, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the head of Al-Azhar, quoted numerous Quranic verses about the value of life, including one that says: "Whoever kills a person it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind."

The grand mufti said all faiths denounce terrorism in all its forms and that acts of terrorism are carried out by criminals, not by true believers of God.

The sheikh said that after the 9/11 attacks the media made Islam look like a "bloodthirsty" religion and that Muslims paid a heavy price for the acts of a few.

He spoke after the Muslim Council of Elders and the pope met for an interreligious dialogue that recognized efforts by the pope and al-Tayeb to foster peace.

7:50 p.m.

Pope Francis has asserted in the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula that religious leaders have a duty to reject all war and commit themselves to dialogue.

Francis concluded his landmark speech to an interfaith gathering on Monday by saying: "God is with those who seek peace. From heaven he blesses every step which, on this path, is accomplished on earth."

Speaking in Italian at the Abu Dhabi Founder's Memorial, Francis cited the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya in calling for leaders to resist the "floods of violence and the desertification of altruism." The UAE is involved in the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya.

Speaking to a gathering of imams, muftis, ministers, rabbis, swamis, Zoroastrians and Sikhs, Francis said: "Human fraternity requires of us, as representatives of the world's religions, the duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word 'war.' Let us return it to its miserable crudeness."

7:35 p.m.

Pope Francis has called out the dangers of so-called "fake news" amid ongoing propaganda campaigns across Gulf Arab countries.

Francis made the comment in a speech Monday night, saying: "Young people, who are often surrounded by negative messages and fake news, need to learn not to surrender to the seductions of materialism, hatred and prejudice."

The boycott of Qatar by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has seen such propaganda published since its start in June 2017.

The crisis began after Qatar's state-run news agency was hacked and fake items were published.

In the time since, slanted or one-sided coverage in the dispute has been common in both Arabic- and English-language media outlets.

Pope Francis is visiting the UAE on the first papal trip ever to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

7:30 p.m.

Pope Francis has condemned all violence committed in God's name, telling an interfaith meeting in the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula that religious leaders must be beacons of peace and promote the dignity of all God's children.

Francis warned that unless people of different religions come together to promote "concrete paths of peace," the future of humanity itself will be in doubt.

He warned: "We will either build the future together or there will not be a future. 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."

At the highlight of his 40-hour visit to Abu Dhabi on Monday, Francis also called for full religious freedom in this majority Muslim region, where restrictions are placed on non-Muslim expressions of faith.

6:20 p.m.

Pope Francis has met with a group of Muslim elders at the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in what the Vatican says was a "particularly cordial and fraternal" encounter.

The Vatican says the private meeting lasted about 30 minutes, and was followed by a visit of the mosque alongside Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning. Francis later paid homage at the tomb of the founder of the Emirates.

The Vatican says that during the meeting Monday, Francis and the participants "emphasized the importance of the culture of encounter to reinforce the commitment to dialogue and peace."

Francis is making the first-ever trip to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, in a bid to strengthen ties with the Muslim world.

2:15 p.m.

Human Rights Watch is urging Pope Francis to use his visit to the United Arab Emirates to press its rulers about serious human rights violations in the war in Yemen and their repression of critics at home.

The rights group released a letter on Monday at the start of the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

HRW says the Saudi-led coalition backed by the UAE has bombed Yemeni homes, markets and schools indiscriminately while impeding humanitarian aid from reaching desperate Yemenis.

The New York-based watchdog also says that the UAE authorities have targeted critics, political dissidents and human rights activists with arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.

HRW called in the letter on the pope to lead international pressure to hold the UAE leadership accountable. It says that "despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record."

1:55 p.m.

Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince says he and Dubai's ruler were "delighted" to meet Pope Francis for a meeting amid the pontiff's trip to the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan tweeted pictures of the meeting on Monday in what he described as "our homeland of tolerance."

Sheikh Mohammed tweeted: "We discussed enhancing cooperation, consolidating dialogue, tolerance, human coexistence & important initiatives to achieve peace, stability and development for peoples and societies."

He did not elaborate.

Pope Francis arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. His visit represents the first papal trip ever to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

1:10 p.m.

Pope Francis has assured the people of the United Arab Emirates of his prayers and "the divine blessings of peace and fraternal solidarity."

Francis signed a book of honor on Monday at the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi, where he met for private talks with the Emirati capital's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

Frances wrote in his characteristic tiny script, in English, of his "gratitude for your warm welcome and hospitality."

The Emirates put on a remarkably grandiose welcome for Francis, complete with an artillery salute and military flyover by a country that is now at war in Yemen, where the UAE backs a Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels.

12:10 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived at the presidential palace to officially start his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates as canons boomed and a military aircraft flew over trailing the yellow and white smoke of the Holy See flag.

Guards on horseback escorted Francis' tiny Kia car to approach the palace where a marching band, complete with bagpipers, was on hand on Monday for a red carpet welcome at the massive, domed structure in Abu Dhabi.

The capital's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was to welcome Francis, the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

The highlight of Francis' day comes on Monday afternoon when he is to meet privately with a group of Muslim elders and then addresses faith leaders in a show of religious tolerance in a Muslim region known for its restrictions on religious freedom.

His 40-hour trip to Abu Dhabi culminates on Tuesday with the first-ever papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula — a gathering expected to draw some 135,000 people in a never-before-seen display of public Christian worship here.

9:55 a.m.

Pope Francis is opening his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates by meeting with the federation's leader and a group of Muslim elders.

After that, he will address an unprecedented gathering of faith leaders in a show of religious tolerance in a Muslim region known for its restrictions on religious freedom.

Francis' speech to the gathering on Monday evening is the highlight of his brief, 40-hour visit to Abu Dhabi.

His trip culminates on Tuesday with the first-ever papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula. It's expected to draw some 135,000 people in a never-before-seen display of public Christian worship here.

Francis arrived in the Emirati capital late Sunday and was greeted by Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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