Pope Francis Makes Significant Visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Pope Francis became the first pontiff to cross the gate of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

On Monday, just after 5 PM, the pope arrived and met Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders.

The meeting between the two religious heads representing Roman Catholicism and Islam was a meaningful occasion. The mosque is not only a place of worship; it is also the burial place of the nation’s Founding President, Sheikh Zayed.

Despite some prediction of rain, chiefly blue skies extended over the city before Pope’s visit. Along the road heading to the mosque, papal and UAE flags flapped in the breeze and it recalled a sense of history in the air. At the mosque, security was much tightened, with police forces and the army guarding entry to the building. Pope Francis arrived in his humble Kia amidst a convoy of dozens of police cars, while three helicopters hovered up above. The evening sun emitted a warm glow over the white marble of the mosque, while Pope Francis stood with Mr Al Tayeb outside the entrance before they headed for a private meeting.

Roman Catholic Archbishop, Felix Machado, stated that the presence of His Holiness at the mosque was a hint of great hope. He added that in today’s desperate situation, Pope Francis’s visit to the mosque can’t be regarded as a mere visit. Instead his actions are important and show signs of aspiration.

Dr Sultan Al Remeithi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Elders, stated that the Monday’s meeting would set up the environment for Muslim and Christian relations to prosper. He stated that Pope Francis is one of the world’s greatest champion for interfaith discussions and this important meeting with grand imam would be helping in taking a positive step.