On September 15, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Pope Francis met at Vatican City to discuss on strengthening existing diplomatic links and promoting inter-religious harmony.
Sheikh Mohammed said that the UAE was a model of coexistence for others because it was home to 200 -nationalities who "live in harmony despite differences in culture, race and religion", and Pope Francis praised the country’s efforts for promotion of this. He also commended the UAE for its humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives focused on education and healthcare, and its role in promoting and supporting sustainable development around the world through the adoption and deployment of sustainable sources of energy and by supporting countries and communities in need.
Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE in turn appreciated the efforts undertaken by the pope to confront intolerance, extremism and violence as well as attempts to defile places of religious sanctity. He praised the pope’s initiatives to tackle poverty, ignorance, violence and the culture of hatred, which could lead to increased intolerance and extremism.
"Pope Francis has reached out to faith leaders of all religions to reject extremism wherever it occurs. The UAE is proud to stand with him. " wrote Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in an opinion article on CNN.com.
Bishop Paul Hinder commented: “When I saw the photo of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Thursday, I was overjoyed. Here was a meeting of two men of different religious and cultural backgrounds, but who share common goals and common interest.”
“On one hand it fosters the mutual diplomatic relationship which has been established between the UAE and the Holy See about nine years ago. Beyond that there are common concerns regarding interfaith dialogue, questions of peace and justice in the region, as well as the care for God’s creation as ‘the common house’ of all human beings”
Sheikh Mohammed presented the pope with a photo book of archaeological discoveries on Sir Bani Yas Island and a "Carpet of Peace", made by weavers from a programme launched by Sheikha Fatima bint Mohammed bin Zayed to support women in rural Afghanistan, to allow them the means to integrate into the workforce within the Afghan culture.
We hope that the meeting between Sheikh Mohammed and the Pope will further the relationship and growth of the church in the Arabian Peninsula.
Sheikh Mohammed also met Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
During the visit, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed was accompanied by a high-level delegation which included Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minster of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimi, Minister of State for International Cooperation; Ali Bin Hammad Al Shamsi, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Security Council; Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority; Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, Under-Secretary at the Court of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince; and Dr. Hessa Abdullah Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to Spain and UAE Non-Resident Ambassador to the Vatican.