Pope Francis condemns ‘misery’ of war in historic first trip to Arab peninsula

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By Saphora Smith and Associated Press

Pope Francis underlined the importance of tolerance in a region known for its restrictions on religious freedom and condemned what he described as the “misery” of war during the first visit to the Arabian Peninsula by a pontiff.

“As-salāmu alaykum,” he told a gathering of interfaith leaders in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, using an Arabic term favored by devout Muslims that translates in English to “Peace be upon you.”

Pope Francis greets Egypt’s Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb on Monday. Vincenzo Pinto / AFP – Getty Images

“Human fraternity requires of us, as representatives of the world’s religions, the duty to reject every nuance of approval from the word ‘war,’” he told the audience outside a memorial to the founding father of the United Arab Emirates.

“Its fateful consequences are before our eyes. I am thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya,” he added.

The comments may sting in a country that is Saudi Arabia’s main ally in the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting the country’s Houthi rebels. The war has helped cause the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

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