ABU DHABI, 29th January, 2019 (WAM) — The UAE is preparing for the joint visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, and the Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, which reflects the country’s stature as an international capital of tolerance and social cohesion.
The visit is the first made by Pope Francis to the Arabian Gulf and is the first occasion when a papal visit coincides with the visit of another major religious icon, such as Dr. Al Tayeb. The visit is the outcome of the values and principles established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The UAE made these principles official policies, government initiatives and laws and legislation before they became a feature of its entire community.
Sheikh Zayed had made his stance clear very often and exchanged visits to affirm the importance of dialogue between Islam and other religions. He also spread the spirit of tolerance and love between various communities around the world, and his efforts are now considered the ideal solution for achieving permanent peace.
“Duty requires people of science to show everyone the essence of Islam and its message, in a way that befits the tolerance of the Islamic religion. Islam considers every person as a human, regardless of their creed or race,” Sheikh Zayed said.
The related efforts of Sheikh Zayed began when he established the country, which guarantees religious freedom by law, stipulates that Islam is its official religion, ensures freedom of worship for non-Muslims, promotes the principles of equality based on the law, and criminalises religious offences.
In terms of his diplomatic and political work, Sheikh Zayed aimed to create ties of friendship with other countries, and on 28th May, 1984, he received Bishop Bernard Gremoli, Envoy of the Vatican to the UAE, to review the efforts of the then Pope to achieve global peace and promote Islamic-Christian dialogue.
Sheikh Zayed stressed that the UAE believes that promoting Islamic-Christian dialogue was an urgent necessity, to overcome relevant obstacles, spread peace, and make people happy.
In 27th January, 1985, Bernard Gremoli, Bishop of the Catholic Church in Abu Dhabi, delivered a written letter by Pope John Paul II that discussed world peace and the closeness between Islam and Christianity.
On 1st November, 1989, Sheikh Zayed received a written letter from Pope John Paul II, which expressed the Pope’s appreciation for Sheikh Zayed’s role in achieving peace and stability and serving humankind.
On 30th January, 1994, Sheikh Zayed received another letter from Pope John II, which discussed current regional and international issues related to establishing international peace and security and ensuring the welfare of humankind.
The cooperation between the UAE and the Vatican further developed with regards to various issues related to world peace and strengthening the values of tolerance and dialogue, until it reached an advanced stage, with the official launch of their diplomatic relations in 2007. During this time, the Vatican praised the religious freedom in the UAE.
The historic visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to the Vatican on 15th September, 2016, is a crowning moment in the relations between the UAE and the Vatican.
During this visit, Pope Francis presented a peace medal to Sheikh Mohamed, to appreciate his role in creating stability and spreading world peace, as well as for the UAE’s efforts to promote tolerance, dialogue and coexistence between communities and religions.