Pope Francis, accompanied by cavalry on Arabian horses, is accorded an official reception and a 21-gun salute
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Monday received Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church.
Upon his arrival at the Presidential Palace, Pope Francis, accompanied by cavalry on Arabian horses, was accorded an official reception.
A 21-gun salute was fired in honour of the Pontiff, following which the Papal Anthem and that of the United Arab Emirates were played.
During the ceremony, the UAE leaders welcomed the visit of Pope Francis to the country and expressed happiness at the historic visit of a man famed for peace and love across the world. They expressed confidence that the visit would contribute to dialogue, brotherhood, coexistence, cooperation and respect among all human beings, and would enhance peace and security for people across the world.
After his meeting with Sheikh Mohamed, Pope Francis signed the Book of Honour and presented a framed medallion by the artist Daniela Longo.
The medallion depicts the encounter between St Francis of Assisi and the Sultan Malek el-Kamel which took place in 1219, an episode narrated in the ninth chapter of the Legenda Maior – one of the most important manuscripts of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma detailing the official biography of St Francis.
A Latin inscription of the Apostolic visit can be found around the border of the medallion, whose imagery highlights the purpose of the trip, human fraternity and dialogue.
Separately, religious leaders from the Indian subcontinent hailed the visit as a big success in bringing all religions together.
"Since His Holiness Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, is here and Islamic scholars are also here, this will give a message to the whole world that religions do not have any link with terrorism and extremism," Allama Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi, chairman Pakistan Ulema Council, told state news agency WAM on the sidelines of the Global Conference of Human Fraternity being held in Abu Dhabi.
"We must open the dialogue among the religions," he added, saying that Islam is a religion of peace, love and brotherhood.
The two-day conference at Emirates Palace has brought together more than 600 religious figures from across the world, to discuss and promote tolerance and inter-faith dialogue.
"The world needs clean water, education, children are suffering from malnutrition, and there are health issues as well," Allama Ashrafi said, adding: "We must be united and make efforts to serve the humanity."
"I think", he explained, "the big terrorism is when anyone uses the name of Islam." Terrorism, he added does not belong to any religion.
Sheikh Abubakr Ahmad, general secretary of the Muslim Scholars Organisation of India and president of the Islamic Education Board of India, told WAM that the meeting between Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, would be successful and would yield positive results.