Pope Francis ministered on Tuesday to the thriving Catholic community in the United Arab Emirates as he concluded his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula with the first-ever papal Mass here and a call for his flock to remain meek in following God. A day after making a broad appeal for Christian and Muslim leaders to work together to promote peace and reject war, Francis celebrated what some considered the largest show of public Christian worship on the peninsula, the birthplace of Islam. For the Gulf Arab region where public displays of non-Islamic faith are restricted, the hymns of "Halleluja" booming out from speakers marked a milestone and evidence of the Emirates' much touted assertions of its tolerance for other faiths, the AP reports.
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti later said some 180,000 people attended the Mass. The Catholic Church estimates as many as 1 million of the more than 9 million living in the UAE are Catholic, nearly all of them foreigners drawn to the oil-rich federation to work in everything from white-collar finance to construction. Most are Filipino and Indian, many of whom have left behind families back home. In his homily, delivered in Italian and translated into Arabic with English subtitles on giant screens, Francis made a direct reference to the suffering many endure. "It is most certainly not easy for you to live far from home, missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future," he said. "But the Lord is faithful and does not abandon his people."
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