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Pope Francis on Tuesday celebrated a historic mass with tens of thousands of people in the United Arab Emirates, the second day of the first-ever papal visit to the Gulf region.

Photo: Pope Francis (C-L) is welcomed by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (C-R) upon his arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE capital on February 3.

According to the local Catholic Church, around 120,000 people attended the mass in and around a stadium in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.

“The crowds included Catholics from 100 nationalities and 4,000 Muslims,’’ organisers said.

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The mass, the largest-ever public Christian religious gathering on the Arabian Peninsula, comes one day after the pope called for religious freedom.

The UAE is an Islamic country, with migrants, mainly from Asia, making up the majority of the population. Report says the Vatican estimates that there are about 900,000 Catholics in the country. While Christians are free to practice their religion in the UAE, it is not the case for other countries in the Gulf, mainly Saudi Arabia, where it is not permitted to build churches.

The pope also condemned violence committed in the name of religion, and urged religious leaders to condemn all forms of violence without hesitation.

Pope Francis, addressing religious leaders from different faiths on Monday, also urged for an end to war, injustice and inequality. Francis also visited the Great Mosque, accompanied by Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the world’s foremost Sunni Islamic university.



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