The Latest: Pope Francis assures UAE people of his prayers

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (all times local):

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.

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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.

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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.

Categories: International News