Pope Francis on Sunday made a public plea to the international community to respect the Yemen ceasefire accord, hours before launching an historic visit to the United Arab Emirates, a prominent member of the Saudi-led coalition.
The pontiff prayed a Hail Mary for Yemen’s children, suffering from hunger but unable to access food depots.
“The cry of these children and their parents rises before God,” he said.
“I appeal to the interested parties and to the international community to urgently encourage compliance with the agreements reached, to ensure the distribution of food and to work for the good of the population.”
Shortly afterwards Francis departed for Abu Dhabi, where he will be a guest of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The prince is a staunch ally of Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the lead architect of the war in Yemen.
The pontiff’s 48-hour visit to the UAE will include an interfaith conference and an open-air mass for 135,0000 worshippers. The UAE has a small Roman Catholic population and Pope Francis has referred to the country as a model of co-existence, a cause he has championed throughout his almost six-year papacy.
Yemen’s war has triggered a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, with millions of people at risk of starvation. At least 10,000 people have been killed, though rights groups say the real number could be closer to 50,000.