Pope's visit a 'historical breakthrough', says EU religious freedom envoy

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Vatican City, Feb. 3 (BNA): The visit by Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Sunday marks an "historical breakthrough," according to Jan Figel, the European Union’s Special Envoy for Religious Freedom.


The visit is the first ever to be made by a Catholic Pope to the Arabian Peninsula.


The Catholic News Agency (CAN), as saying that the visit will “deepen the ongoing dialogue and sense of responsibility to the representatives and people of the second major religion”, quoted Figel.


During his visit, Pope Francis will also attend the Global Conference on Human Fraternity, along with the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al Tayyeb, and other religious leaders, according to Emirates News Agency (WAM).


“This conference has great potential,” Figel said, adding: "When trusted leaders show their example and commitment for human brotherhood, this is the great contribution to peaceful coexistence in diversity."


Figel, who has held his post since May 2016, went on to place the conference within the context of other developments in the Muslim world designed to advance peace and religious tolerance. He referred specifically to the December 2016, the World Conference on Peace in Muslim Societies, held in Abu Dhabi in December 2016.


This, he told CNA, "was oriented on understanding of civil state based on equal citizenship, pluralism and fair treatment of religious minorities in the spirit of the Marrakesh Declaration adopted by Islamic leaders and scholars."


The Marrakech Declaration, issued in January 2015, was a statement signed by more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, heads of state and scholars aimed at "defending the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries."


Pope Francis’ attendance at next week’s summit will deepen the ongoing dialogue and sense of responsibility and bring a "message of care and support to Christian communities living in the region," Figel added.