Hawzan News Agency (Abu Dhabi, UAE) - Pope Francis said he was looking to write a new page in relations between religions with his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In the long, complicated and often bloody history of papal relations with the Muslim world, Argentine pontiff Jorge Bergoglio stands out for his fraternal language and broader desire to reach out across religious divides.
"I am happy... to write on your dear land a new page in the relations between religions, confirming that we are brothers although different," he said in a video message to the Emirati people released Thursday.
"Pope Francis is different from his predecessor Benedict XVI because he prefers interpersonal encounters to theological subtleties," said Valentino Cottini who teaches Islamic-Christian relations at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in Rome.
Retired German Pope Benedict XVI, a theologian, spoke the most about Islam, giving 188 speeches on the subject.
His constant appeals for refugees to be welcomed, many of whom are Muslim, have helped win him support from the community, just as when he brought three Muslim families back on the papal plane from the Greek island of Lesbos.
In 2016 and 2017 the spiritual leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics met with the Imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's highest body, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb.
Pope Francis takes great care not to use the word "Islamist" when an attack is carried out in the name of Islam, preferring to use "terrorist."
In 2014, he called for Muslim political and religious leaders as well as academics unambiguously to condemn terrorism, a source of Islamophobia. He also puts Christian, Jewish and Muslim fundamentalisms on the same level — they are all "deviations."
In 2016 Francis declined to "associate Islam with violence" when asked about the murder of French priest Jacques Hamel by two jihadists.
In the wake of the attack, he said that "the world is at war" but argued that religion was not the cause. "When I speak of war I speak of wars over interests, money, resources, not religion. All religions want peace, it's the others who want war."