ASIA/ARAB EMIRATES - Five years of Abu Dhabi Document: Bishop Martinelli underlines the prophetic significance

Sunday, 4 February 2024 dialogue   fraternity   islam  

Vatican Media

Abu Dhabi (Agenzia Fides) - In this "dramatic moment in the history of humanity, marked by so many conflicts", the Document on Human Fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed al Tayyeb appears more and more like a "prophetic document" that needs to be reread, disseminated and made known in order to pass on its spirit and values to the new generations. Bishop Paolo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, calls for this with passion and determination in a letter written on the occasion of the 5th Anniversary of Pope Francis' visit to the United Arab Emirates (February 3-5, 2019).

In the letter published on Saturday, February 3, Bishop Martinelli invites the brothers and sisters "to remember the 5th anniversary and celebrate this extraordinary event that profoundly marked our Apostolic Vicariate and our Country and gave a decisive impulse to inter- -religious dialogue".

Pope Francis' visit to Abu Dhabi in 2019 was the first visit of a Bishop of Rome to the Arabian Peninsula. On February 5, the Successor of Peter also celebrated the most attended service ever on the peninsula, the cradle of Islam, at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi. Around 40,000 Christians were present in the stadium and another 90,000 gathered to silently follow the Mass outside the sports facility (see photo).
"The memory of those days", said the Apostolic Vicar Martinelli, a member of the Capuchin Friars Minor order "still fills our hearts with gratitude and awakens us with a profound sense of responsibility for the Church and the whole world". The Pope's visit to the local Catholic community "was an opportunity to recognize ourselves as part of the One Church of Christ and to renew our commitment to a humble and faithful Christian testimony, in the context of the Arabian Peninsula".
There are around 900,000 Catholics living in the United Arab Emirates alone, all of them immigrant workers, most of whom come from other Asian countries, starting from the Philippines and India. Five years ago, in the homily at the Mass celebrated at the stadium, Pope Francis made direct reference to the state and unique profile of the Catholic community in the United Arab Emirates and throughout the Arabian Peninsula, made up of immigrants who arrived in search of work and come from dozens of different nations. "You", said the Pope, "are a choir composed of numerous nations, languages and rites; a diversity that the Holy Spirit loves and wants to harmonize ever more, in order to make a symphony. This joyful polyphony of faith is a witness that you give to everyone and that builds up the Church". With these words - Bishop Martinelli said five years later - "Pope Francis recognizes the unique character of our Church, which comprises of people from over one hundred different countries, bringing diverse cultures, languages, traditions and rites. The polyphony we are called to achieve is not just for us but is a responsibility towards the whole Church. Experiencing diversity in unity is our primary task. We are a Church of Migrants, a ‘pilgrim Church’. And therefore, we have the unique opportunity to enrich each other by sharing our gifts, talents, cultures and traditions. The Church and the world", the Bishop continued, "need to see in us that diversity is not a problem or an obstacle, but a wealth".
Referring to the document signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019, Bishop Martinelli reiterates its prophetic significance, calling it a "milestone for interreligious dialogue", and invites it to be used in Christian educational programs and events. "We", he adds, "recognize that we are different, and we are called to know each other, to respect each other, and to walk together promoting peace and justice, human fraternity and peaceful coexistence, the role of women in society, always safeguarding creation as a gift from God for the good of all".
The Abu Dhabi Document also inspired the creation of the “Abrahamic Family House”, inaugurated in Abu Dhabi on February 16 last year. A mosque, a church and a synagogue stand side by side in the same place. "And the church", Bishop Martinelli reminds in his letter "is a gift from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates to Pope Francis and is dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, the man of peace and universal brotherhood". "I again invite all our faithful", emphasizes the Apostolic Vicar of South Arabia "to participate in the initiatives promoted by the Abrahamic Family House, which we support with conviction. We want to cry out to the world that it is possible to walk together with people of different faiths, work for peace and promote a more fraternal world". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 4/2/2019)