by Paolo Martinelli*
Dubai (Agenzia Fides) - We deeply regret that Pope Francis will not be able to come to Dubai tomorrow.
Pope Francis himself told me personally about his intention to attend the climate conference when I met him at the World Synod in Rome in October. I could see that he was very interested in this trip. He considered it a very important personal obligation. We knew from the beginning that it would not be a pastoral visit, but that the purpose would be to speak at COP28. But as a local church we have accompanied the preparations for the trip with commitment and with affection and prayer as far as we have been asked. The duration of the trip was also very short, less than 48 hours, and many bilateral meetings had been requested. Six hours of travel time and a time difference of 3 hours. It would certainly have been a very strenuous journey, also from a physical point of view. When news of the Pope's trip was made public, I sent a letter to our communities asking for prayers for the Pope and for the success of his participation in COP28. Prayers continue in our churches for the success of this very important meeting, and now to these prayers are added prayers for the Pope's health.
Our believers are very fond of Pope Francis. Everyone remembers his visit in 2019, the Mass at the stadium and his visit to the Abu Dhabi Cathedral.
We, as the Apostolic Vicariate of South Arabia, continue to feel strongly about the problem of climate change and we appreciate the Pope's contributions on this issue. Our young people in particular are very interested in these problems. For some time now we have included the theme of integral ecology in the catechesis we do for young people and adolescents. The encyclical “Laudato Si'” and the exhortation “Laudate Deum” are texts that are highly valued by our young people. They see in the writings and interventions of Pope Francis a great love for the new generations and the concern of the Bishop of Rome for their future.
I am convinced that, even if the Pope cannot come to us, his desire to take part in COP28 and having tried with the best of intentions is a great testimony to his pastoral commitment to the theme of care for the common home. I think that no one can remain indifferent to this testimony, even if he physically cannot be with us in person. In any case, the Holy See will be present at COP28 and the local Church is also doing its part. We will do everything we can to ensure that the Holy Father's message is known and accepted. (Agenzia Fides, 30/11/2023)
* Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia