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Pope Francis on Monday called for an end to wars in the Middle East during the first visit by the head of the Catholic church to the birthplace of Islam, the Arabian Peninsula.

Pope Francis gestures during a farewell ceremony before leaving Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates February 5, 2019.

During the visit, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan gifted the pontiff the act of notary that dates back to June 22, 1963, for a donation of land to build the first church in the UAE. It featured horse-mounted guards escorting the pontiff's motorcade through the palace gardens while the flyover trailed the yellow and white smoke of the Vatican flag.

In a historic visit of sorts, Pope Francis ministered 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.

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Pope Francis in turn gave him a framed medallion of the meeting between St. Francis Assisi - the pope's namesake - and the Sultan of Egypt Malek al-Kamel, in 1219. Since then, religious fanaticism and faith-inspired wars have only grown around the globe, inspiring the pontiff's efforts to promote tolerance and understanding.

They found welcome in the Emirates, which prides itself on its tolerance in a region known for severely restricting religious freedom and is home to a remarkably vibrant Catholic community that by some estimates numbers 1 million faithful in a federation of 9 million. Also attending the "Human Fraternity Meeting" are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faith leaders from around the world. Otherwise they warn of a "third world war being fought piecemeal".

The UAE supports Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, which has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"But the UAE has shown how sensitive it is to its image on the global stage, and Pope Francis should use his visit to press the UAE leaders to meet their human rights obligations at home and overseas".

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"For me as a Christian, this is one of the most important days of my life", said Thomas Tijo, a 44-year-old from India's southern state of Kerala, who lives in the UAE and travelled by bus in the early hours to get to the stadium. "It is as if Jesus is coming to my home", said Faisal Kheeran, who is originally from Pakistan and has lived in the UAE for almost a decade. Political parties are banned, and local media censored.

"We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood", the document read.

The document urged tolerance, declaring they "call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of global policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing".

"Let us pray strongly because they are children who are hungry, who are thirsty, they don't have medicine and they are in danger of death."

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Her father Gregory nodded and added: "Any time".


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