Abu Dhabi: Pope Francis was accorded full military honours, including a 21-gun salute and fly-past, when he was hosted at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi on Monday by Their Highnesses Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
Upon his arrival through the eerily quiet streets of the capital in an remarkably understated Kia Soul, all that could be heard were the hooves of the awaiting cavalry guard before a 21-gun salute, which preceded the anthems of both the Vatican and the UAE, as Pope Francis stood side-by-side with the UAE’s leadership, his robes buffeted by a stiff breeze.
Then came a fly-past by the UAE Air Force’s Al Forsan aerobatic display team, which etched out the Vatican flag into the clouds to celebrate the pope’s three-day visit.
During the ceremony, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed welcomed Pope Francis and expressed their happiness at the visit of a man famed for peace and love across the world.
They expressed confidence that the visit would contribute to dialogue, brotherhood, co-existence, cooperation and respect among all human beings, enhancing peace and security for people across the world.
Pope Francis greeted UAE dignitaries, including shaikhs and ministers, while Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed greeted the official delegation accompanying the pope.
After his meeting with the UAE leaders, Pope Francis signed the ‘Book of Honour’ and presented them with a framed medallion by artist Daniela Longo.
The medallion depicts the encounter between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malek Al Kamel in 1219, an episode narrated in the ninth chapter of the ‘Legenda Maior’ — one of the most important manuscripts of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma detailing the official biography of St Francis.
A Latin inscription of the apostolic visit can be found around the border of the medallion, whose imagery highlights the purpose of the trip, human fraternity and dialogue.
— With inputs from WAM