Meeting with tens of thousands of Catholics living in the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis urged them to be meek, peaceful and express their Christian identity by loving others.
The UAE Catholic community, which numbers close to one million, includes foreign workers from roughly 100 nations, but particularly India and the Philippines. They filled the stadium at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City and the open spaces around the complex for Pope Francis’ Mass on February 5.
The United Arab Emirates is officially Muslim, but it allows members of other faiths to worship according to their beliefs.
The Muslim dignitaries at the Mass were led by Sheik Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the government minister of tolerance.
In his homily, Pope Francis told the Catholics, “I like to quote St. Francis, when he gave his brothers instructions about approaching the Saracens and non-Christians. He wrote: ‘Let them not get into arguments or disagreements, but be subject to every human creature out of love for God, and let them profess that they are Christians.’”
So “neither arguments nor disagreements” are called for, the Pope said. In the 13th Century “as many people were setting out, heavily armed” to fight in the Crusades, “St Francis pointed out that Christians set out armed only with their humble faith and concrete love”.
“Meekness is important,” the Pope said. “If we live in the world according to the ways of God, we will become channels of his presence; otherwise, we will not bear fruit.”
The prayers of the faithful for the Mass were written in six languages: Korean, French, Urdu, Filipino, Konkani and Malayam.
The prayer in Filipino, acknowledging how many foreign workers come to the UAE without their families, asked God to accompany “all the migrants and workers who live in these lands; may their sacrifice and diligence blossom into goodness and sustenance for their families”.
The French prayer asked God to convert “the hearts of sinners and of the violent; stop the wars, defeat hatred, help us weave bonds of justice and peace.”
In his homily, Pope Francis acknowledged the difficulties many Catholic foreign workers experience so far from their homelands, often doing very humble work for very rich families.
The Gospel reading for the Mass was the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. Pope Francis told the people that the Gospel message was for them and could be summarised as: “If you are with Jesus, if you love to listen to his word as the disciples of that time did, if you try to live out this word every day, then you are blessed. Not you will be blessed, but you are blessed.”