In the presence of some 180,000 persons from over 100 countries, including around 4,000 Muslims, Pope Francis celebrated the concluding mass of his Apostolic visit to the United Arab Emirates, inviting the Christians living in the region to live in peace and to remember that Jesus always walk by our side.
The Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi was filled to capacity and many did not manage to find a place within the complex for the Pope’s mass. The vast majority in attendance were migrants who settled in the country in search of work, coming from many countries around the world but especially from Philippines and India. To all these, the Pope had a message of comfort and hope.
The Lord does not abandon his people
“It is most certainly not easy for you to live far from home,” he said, “missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future.” But “the Lord is faithful and does not abandon his people.”
In celebrating the Mass for Peace and Justice, the Pope reflected on how the Beatitudes relate to Christians living in the Middle East.
He said they are blessed, and noted that blessedness is not a future state but a present reality. Jesus, he said, repeats his message of blessing today. “If you are with Jesus, if you love to listen to his word as the disciples of that time did, if you try to live out this word every day, then you are blessed.” The Pope called it “a joy that gives peace also in the midst of pain”.
Vatican News who followed Pope Francis thrught this visit recalled that the Pope told the faithful attending the mass that Jesus’ life shows us that blessedness cannot be measured according to worldly standards. The Beatitudes overturn popular thinking that those who are successful, rich, and powerful are blessed. Rather, the poor, meek, just, and persecuted attain that category.
“He came to serve and not to be served,” said Pope Francis, “he taught us that greatness is not found in having but rather in giving.” The meaning of life is living “in communion with him and in our love for others”.
The Beatitudes, said Pope Francis, are a roadmap for life. “They do not require superhuman actions, but rather the imitation of Jesus in our everyday life.”
Comparing the written and lived Gospel to written and performed music during the mass, Pope Francis said they know the Gospel’s tune and follow its rhythm with enthusiasm. “You 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.”
Then Pope Francis compared the Church of the UAE to the ancient Church of Philadelphia, which Jesus addresses in the Book of Revelation (Rev 3:7-13). The Pope said the Lord does not reproach it for anything. “That Church,” he said, “kept Jesus’ word without renouncing his name and persevered, went forward, even in the midst of difficulties.”
Philadelphia, he noted, means “brotherly love” or “fraternal love”, a reference to his attendance at the Global Conference of Human Fraternity on Monday.
Pope Francis concluded by inviting all people of the United Arab Emirates – indeed the entire region – “to preserve peace, unity”, and “to take care of each other, with that beautiful fraternity in which there are no first or second class Christians.”