The pontiff said the document, signed during his visit to the UAE in 2019, was a road map for peace. “The greatness of any country is not measured solely by its wealth but by its substantial role in spreading the values of peace, brotherhood, coexistence and defending them,” he said.
In an interview with Al Ittihad newspaper that was published on Monday, and also reported by state news agency Wam, Pope Francis condemned the recent burnings of the Quran in Sweden and said that permitting such behaviour was “unacceptable”.
He stressed that freedom of expression should not be used as an excuse to offend others and expressed his deep anger at such behaviour, Wam said.
Pope Francis said he presents the Document on Human Fraternity to all delegations he receives at the Vatican because “it is an important text, not only for interreligious dialogue but also for peaceful coexistence among all people”.
The document was signed in 2019 by Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, during the pontiff's visit to the UAE. It calls for the reconciliation of people of all faiths and goodwill in service of universal peace. The Abrahamic Family House, a complex of a mosque, synagogue and church that opened in Abu Dhabi this year, aims to be the physical manifestation of the document.
“I am very pleased with the acceptance and understanding of the global community of the document's message and its goals as a guide for future generations, acknowledging that we are all members of one human family,” said Pope Francis.
He thanked everyone who worked on the Abrahamic Family House and expressed his confidence that it would become a centre for religious dialogue and coexistence. “I am grateful to His Highness [President Sheikh Mohamed] and to the UAE's commitment to translating the teachings of the document into tangible actions,” said Pope Francis.
He described the UAE's Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, as a farsighted leader who built his country on tolerance, coexistence and education and whose sons are following in his footsteps.
Turning to the Cop28 summit to be held in the UAE from November 30 to December 12, the pontiff said he hoped the UAE’s hosting of the event would provide solutions to the environmental crisis.
Reflecting on his surgery last month to repair a hernia, Pope Francis said he was now feeling better. “It was a challenging experience, but now, thanks be to God, I am feeling better. I think of all the patients and pray for their speedy recovery.”
Pontiff reflects on historic UAE visit
Pope Francis’s landmark visit to the UAE in 2019, meanwhile, was the first time a pontiff visited the country. He led a huge open-air mass at Zayed Sports City in the capital that was attended by more than 100,000 people.
“I remember with great joy and gratitude my trip to the UAE in 2019 and the warm welcome I received,” he said. “I was deeply impressed by the generosity and hospitality that your dear country showed me. In my speech in Abu Dhabi, I said that this country's investments are being made not only in the extraction of the Earth's resources but also in those of the heart, in the education of young people.”
Pope Francis also stressed the need to provide young people with the tools to protect them from malicious conflicts, negative messages, fake news, material temptations, hatred and prejudice. He emphasised that freedom, discernment and responsibility are the most important tools.
“I greatly appreciate the commitment of the UAE and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to building the future and shaping an open identity capable of overcoming the temptation to close in on oneself and become rigid,” said Pope Francis. “I also appreciate their support for international efforts for peace and tolerance because investing in culture promotes the decline of hatred and contributes to the growth of civilisation and prosperity.”