DUBAI: The highlight of the first day of the World Government Summit was a plenary session in the evening where Pope Francis conveyed his message in a video recording to the UAE and the governments of the world.

In the message, beamed to a packed hall in the presence of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Executive Council, and other dignitaries, the Pope said, “I carry in my heart the visit to the UAE and the warm welcome I received. I encountered a modern country which is looking to the future without forgetting its roots. I saw a country seeking to transform into concrete initiatives and actions the words tolerance, fraternity, mutual respect and freedom. I also saw how even desert flowers spring up and grow. I returned home with the hope that many deserts in the world can bloom like this.”

He said, “It is my sincere hope that the questions underlying your reflections will not only be ‘what are the best opportunities to take advantage of, but what kind of world do we want to build together. This question leads us to think of people and of persons rather than capital and economic interests. It is a question that does not look to tomorrow, but further into the future, to the responsibility weighing upon us: handing on this world of ours to those who will come after us, preserving it from environmental degradation and even before that, moral degradation. We cannot speak of sustainable development without solidarity.”

Soon after the Pope’s address, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, said, “The recent visit of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Ahmad Al Tayyeb was a historical event and opened a new dialogue of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence.”

The minister said the Abu Dhabi Declaration signed by the Pope and Grand Imam of Al Azhar sends a strong message hope, and peaceful co-existence and upholds freedom of thought, plurality, race, colour and language for everyone. “The historical declaration is a call for peace, brotherhood and fraternity among believers and non-believers. Peace belongs to all,” he said.

He also spoke about the Zayed Fund that Shaikh Mohammad had decided to set up for the promotion of peace globally.