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Pope Francis Set to Celebrate Mass in Abu Dhabi; Pentagon: ISIS Likely to Retake Territory and Claim "Victory" if U.S. Pulls Its Troops Out of Syria; Trump: We'll Come Back to Syria If We Have To. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 5, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president just hours away from delivering his State of the Union to a divided Congress and a divided nation.

Hello, everybody, I'm John Vause.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: And I am Becky Anderson, in Abu Dhabi, where we are wait for the pope. Expected here in about an hour to celebrate holy mass with a huge crowd of thousands and millions more around the world. And so you are joining us, watching history in the making.

Pope Francis the first-ever Roman Catholic pope to visits here. The Arabian Peninsula the birthplace of Islam. Amid the glitz and glamor of Abu Dhabi, Francis was driven to the presidential palace Monday in a humble Kia Soul car. He later met with Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders including the grand imam of Egypt, al-Azhar, a major figure in Sunni Islam.

The two men signed a document what's being called a document on human fraternity. It calls the dialogue between faiths and denounces extremism. In a speech, the pope also called on leaders to reject war, mentioning conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and in Libya. All conflicts of course, here in the Middle East.

Francis has a full schedule in the coming hours, set to visit eight cathedrals, home to some of the million-plus Christians that live here in the UAE. That's right, more than a million Christians in the United Arab Emirates.

After that it's the capstone of the trip. The papal mass behind us with more than 100,000 people at Zayed Sports City, both inside and outside of this stadium.

Amid the tens of thousands around us here and some very distinguished guests on set with me, we are going to have an exciting set for you all this morning. Right now, UAE historian and writer Peter Hellyer as we watch history unfold here and of course, none other than Mr. Omar Saif Ghobash, an Emirati diplomat and ambassador, who we are very lucky to have with us this morning.

We'll have fantastic insights as we come to you in a moment.

First, let's get to CNN Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, who is also with me and John Defterios, who is just outside among a buzzing crowd of as I say more than 90,000 people, waiting to see the pope, who will be here at the stadium within the next hour.

And, John, a stunning morning for what is an extremely exciting day for so many gathered here. The lucky ones amongst us with tickets, of course, but there are tens of thousands with you.

Who have you got?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It's amazing, Becky, this is the overflow crowd and, boy, is it overflowing outside as you said from the stadium. Better than 90,000 and this is the passage way about 100 meters away from me where the pope will drive up for the service.

We have two Indians from Bangalore, Preethal Rodrigues and Jain Dsouza joining us.

We saw each other about three hours ago and they came early for the event itself.


DEFTERIOS (voice-over): First and foremost, before the proceedings take place, you said it's an historic moment how does it affect you here as a parishioner here in the UAE?

PREETHAL RODRIGUES, PARISHIONER (voice-over): It's very rare that we get to see pope and it's a lifetime of opportunity for everyone. And he comes in the balcony once in a while so it's actually very -- we are actually very honored to see pope today, yes, actually honored.

DEFTERIOS (voice-over): You said your mom is going to Rome to see Pope Francis at the Vatican but you beat her to it. It's a very proud moment for the family.

RODRIGUES: She will be going to April to the Vatican to meet the pope. Maybe, hopefully, she will be able to see him as well. But before her, I will be seeing him. So I am very happy for that.

DEFTERIOS (voice-over): You have been here for about five years.

Did you did you ever think that this would happen in the UAE?

JAIN DSOUZA, PARISHIONER: No, really it is an surprise to us. And for me, it's like a very big surprise and I am waiting for this moment from only yesterday, actually, yes, yesterday, like, like how the time is passing, I don't know.

I went to (INAUDIBLE) church and around 10 -- no, 11:30, I reached and then from there I travel. We reached here at around 1:30. And the time is just passing by, passing by and now I am just waiting for the pope. And it's, yes, it's --


DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Just about an hour away.

One final point from you, what sort of message do you think it sends?

Because there has been a lot of turmoil in the region itself --


DEFTERIOS (voice-over): -- and chaos, tension with Saudi Arabia and Iran and after the Arab Spring to actually have the pope here and dialogue with the grand imam from Egypt.

RODRIGUES (voice-over): It's a very good message. Our sheikhs are giving us like they believe in peace and equality and all religions are safe. They are not giving bias on anyone and they are really thankful. And we are also thankful for all the sheiks and all the presidents of the UAE, that they have given us this opportunity, where all the religion for them and us, all religion are equal.

We are actually very thankful for the sheiks and presidents here for giving us this opportunity to meet pope himself face-to-face.

DEFTERIOS: OK, Preethal and Jain from Southern India, practicing Christians.

The Indians and the South Asians make up 47 percent of the population here. The Indians themselves, Becky, 12 percent. The earpiece has fallen off but it's very, very noisy I so I will toss it back to you in the stadium and we'll talk to you later in the hour, back to you.

ANDERSON: Good stuff, John, thank you very much indeed.

Delia here with us, of course, it's a beautiful morning for this. You have been in town a couple of days, it's been great having you. What an occasion for so many people here.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: This is the kind of culmination of the whole thing for the people of the Emirates and for the pope. Because, of course, he comes here also to be with the Catholic population that is here. And, you know, when you travel, you hear people, they remember for a lifetime their first papal mass.

ANDERSON: As important as this mass will be and it will start in about 90 minutes' time for the Christians here, it's the pope's contact with Muslim and Jewish leaders here that is so significant, why?

GALLAGHER: We heard yesterday a very powerful speech that he gave to religious leaders because, of course, the whole point of him coming in addition to meeting the Catholics is to speak to these religious leaders in which the pope called on them to essentially denounce, to be the ones to give voice to denounce what he calls the logic of power. So the arms race, to denounce violence in the game of God, he said.

So on a couple of different levels, both politically, the use of power, the use of military arms and weapons and war. And also within their own communities to denounce any violence and justifying violence and killing in the name of God.

ANDERSON: The pope specifically siting the crisis in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya in his calls.

GALLAGHER: Yes. And he came back to that topic, which everybody was kind of watching, what would he say about Yemen, that's a very delicate political situation in this country. And he said it before he left, he made a prayer for peace in Yemen.

But he came back to it again in his speech yesterday, which was really his first and only in a sense public speech because this is a homily and mass, which will be more religious probably. Yesterday in his speech he brought it all together and put in as well the question of Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Syria and, of course, remembering conflicts around the world. It was a very strong political message as well last night.

ANDERSON: Delia Gallagher, with me, we will come back, thank you.

As I say, we are about 90 minutes away from the mass here, which is why people are gathered. Signs around town read, we might not be reading from the same book but we are on the same page.

As this country celebrates 2019 as its year of tolerance. As an example of that, you might know that while this country is predominantly Muslim, look around me here, there are many, many Christians. Here is a look at how religions get along side by side on a daily basis.


ANDERSON (voice-over): For Ansel and Louella Fernandez, breaking bread means more than just eating. It's about bringing people together. It's what they say they love about the UAE.

ANSEL FERNANDEZ, CATHOLIC: I'd say one of the best environments to raise up children.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The couple immigrated from India to Dubai 25 years ago. They're both devout Catholics and active members at Saint Mary's Catholic Church.

A. FERNANDEZ: In India, although the population is huge, the Catholic population within a parish is very small. Out here, you've got tens of thousands of people in our parish, different nationalities, different cultures, different value systems, all integrating together. And that itself is a huge experience.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Just across the street is a mosque, an image capturing signs of harmony and tolerance.

LOUELLA FERNANDEZ, CATHOLIC: It's really nice on some days when, you know, it's a bit quiet during mass and you hear the call for prayer.

A. FERNANDEZ: We just coexist peacefully. It's a beautiful environment.

ANDERSON (voice-over): An environment of coexistence that goes beyond this place of --


ANDERSON (voice-over): -- worship to picnics in the park with friends and families, where different cultures and faiths sit together, eat together and even pray together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go back to our scriptures, you know, and refer to that, whether it's a Bible or the Quran or the Torah or any other religious book, everybody speaks about peace. We practice the same thing.

ANDERSON (voice-over): In one of the world's most culturally diverse countries, people from different faiths live peacefully and come together to break bread or, in this case, biryani.


ANDERSON: All right. And the pope just arriving at St. Joseph's Cathedral ahead of his arrival here. Many people there to see the pope's arrival. This is an important moment the pope will spend with religious leaders there and then on his way here.

And the roads, they will be lined with people. Some 90,000 people will welcome the pope along his route as he makes his way from St. Joseph's, which is in Abu Dhabi in the center of the city here, just a couple of miles away from where we are at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

With Delia and me, well, no better minds to break down the importance of what we are witnessing than these two gentlemen I have with me.

Omar Saif Ghobash, a consummate Emirati diplomat, former ambassador to France and Russia and an expert in theology in his own right.

And the author of "Letters to a Young Muslim," to help guide young people, he's sung from the perils and pitfalls of radicalization.

And historian Peter Hellyer, who has literally written the book on Christianity across the Middle East and here in the Gulf.


ANDERSON (voice-over): The short piece I used to introduce you guys talked about coexistence in this, country of the UAE.

Just how important is this trip to the UAE in what is this year of tolerance, Omar?

OMAR SAIF GHOBASH, UAE AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE (voice-over): It's remarkably important and I think it came as a surprise to many of us. It's a particularly brave move by the leadership in the particular -- in the current environment in the Middle East.

But it's well received. And if you look at it in the context of the Middle East after 9/11, it really is a perfect way of -- a perfect symbol of the values that we stand for. We inherited the values of tolerance and openness to other cultures from the founder of the Emirates. From the 1950s and 1960s, it was opened to us, to even Christian missionaries in the region.

And as Peter will tell us, churches were built going back to the '60s and, for us, it's a major stand that we can take against the extremists. This is a symbolic gesture but its also a challenge for us going forward. So year of tolerance doesn't mean it ends at the end of the year, it's means this is actually setting the tone for the future.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Churches, as Omar suggests, built here back in the 1960s, a country that only became a country in and of itself in 1971. But the history of Christianity is a lot older than that in this region, Peter.

PETER HELLYER, HISTORIAN (voice-over): There is a long heritage of Christianity in the Gulf. (INAUDIBLE). We arrived (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON (voice-over): Let me stop for you a moment. I think we've got an issue with your mike so I'm going to come back to you. Hold that thought, sir, if you will.

I want to come back to you, Omar, because we talk about this year of tolerance and the irony of a country that is so tolerant so far as religion is concerned but perceived to be or accused of being less tolerant when it comes to political expression will not be lost on our viewers.

GHOBASH (voice-over): Sure. And there is a certain logic to it. Most of the issue with political movements in the region, is based on religious (INAUDIBLE) and what we are trying to do is to expand that sphere of religious tolerance that will then (INAUDIBLE) perhaps (INAUDIBLE) politics, something that is not so authoritarian (INAUDIBLE).

GALLAGHER (voice-over): You know, Becky, I was interested to ask Omar, because one of the things that the pope brought up in his speech yesterday was about citizenship. And he looks forward to societies where everybody would be granted the right to citizenship.

And how is that issue here in the Emirates?

GHOBASH: Well, citizenship is a difficult issue I think right across the world at the moment. There is a great pushback towards --


GHOBASH: -- national identity and ethnic identity. For us, being a minority in our own country, it's always been an existential issue. We form between 10 percent to 15 percent of the population. Citizenship, there's always a debate about these issues; certain people are given citizenship. But it's far too early in our history to be able to do that.

GALLAGHER: It's mainly reserved only for Emiratis born here, is that the idea?

GHOBASH: And through marriage as well.


ANDERSON: I think you are an example, are you not, of an English man with Emirati citizenship?

HELLYER: I am indeed an Emirati citizen --


HELLYER: -- and so are my wife and children. I have been here for more than 40 years.

ANDERSON: There is a good example.

Peter, I think your microphone is working, am I right in saying that?

Fantastic, good, because you were talking to us about the history of Christianity in this region.

HELLYER: Yes. It's a faith that spread here shortly after the birth of Christianity by the 2nd -- 3rd century. Christianity had reached the Gulf and a lot of the local tribes became Christian. It spread through proselytization (sic); it spread through trade. The Christian communities here were very much interconnected with the trading routes that ran from the upper part of the Arabian Gulf all the way to India, in the pearling (ph) industry.

So they were very much integrated as part of society because they were part of society and the tradition of religious tolerance, if you like, can be dated back in the Gulf right back to the birth of Islam. Islam arrived here in the early 7th century. We had a monastery build on the island of Sir Bani Yas around the beginning of the 7th century and lasted through into the 8th.

But at the same time, you had a further boost in the building of churches and monasteries in the Gulf after the arrival of Islam. Now that couldn't have happened if there hadn't been a certain degree of tolerance.

ANDERSON: The plethora of what, 40 churches in the country, I think 700 Christian ministries, Sikh temples and Buddhist temples next to these churches, next to mosques. It's something that, until you live in this country, you really hadn't perhaps considered.

It was the early '60s, wasn't it, 1970s, when we began to see the emergence of what we continue to see here as the modern-day churches, why was that?

HELLYER: Because the inflow of the population as the country began to grow after oil development (ph) but also because of the desire of the rulers to welcome in these communities. They were not new, the communities, Christian and Hindu communities from India, for example. You've had merchants here for centuries.

But in the beginning of the '60s, as the population began to grow, the rulers welcomed in the immigrants and they were Indian, they were Arab. They arrived with European populations and so on.

ANDERSON: Those involved in the oil business --

HELLYER: Absolutely. And I think it was very nice, the gift that was given to the pope yesterday, of the original document of the land grant in 1963, for the first Catholic Church in Abu Dhabi. And it's a nice --


GALLAGHER: And one of the things they announced yesterday actually is the imam and the grand imam of al-Azhar and the pope are -- they laid the cornerstones to build a church and a mosque together in a center for inter-religious dialogue. This question of building churches in the region is important and so that is a symbolic gesture of these two side by side.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff, we are something like 75 minutes away from the beginning of the papal mass here at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, joined by fabulous guests and John Defterios outside, with the thousands who are gathered on the road to see Pope Francis.

He will leave where he is at present, that being St. Joseph's Cathedral in town, he'll make his way in the Kia Soul, the new era or iteration of the Popemobile, and will make his way around John Defterios and the crowds outside and into this stadium within the next 45 minutes.

For the time being, John, back to you.

VAUSE: A Kia, he certainly has his own style and can certainly draw a crowd, Francis. Becky, thank you.

Donald Trump, the State of the Union and his border wall.

Will the president use this moment before a national TV audience to call for a new era of unity and compromise or double down on his demands for $5 billion to pay for a signature campaign promise?

Details in a moment.





VAUSE: In just a few hours the U.S. president will appear before Congress to deliver the annual "this is how we are doing" speech. The State of the Union was delayed during the recent government shutdown, which was a direct result of a standoff between the president and his demands for funding for his border wall with Mexico and House Democrats, who remain strongly opposed. The wall was a key campaign promise by the president and to keep it, he may declare a national emergency.

But according to a new CNN poll, two-thirds of Americans think that's not a good idea. But among Republicans, there is overwhelming support for a shutdown if the current budget negotiations fail to deliver on the president's demands.

David Siders joins us now from Los Angeles. He's a senior reporter with "Politico".

David, it's been a while. Good to see you.

DAVID SIDERS, "POLITICO": Nice to see you.

VAUSE: OK. If you look at that 71 percent number, it goes up to 78 percent among Donald Trump's base, overall 66 percent opposed to declaring a national emergency; 60 percent opposed to a shutdown, all over the funding for the wall.

But whenever Trump this choice between a compromise or pleasing his base, in this case, the 78 percenters, almost every time he goes with his base.

Is there any reason to think that he won't follow that pattern during the State of the Union?

SIDERS: No. I think he will make a broad call for compromise in very general terms, which should also appeal to his base. But he'll also talk a lot about border security, about abortion, issues that matter critically to conservative Republicans.

VAUSE: Well, I want to you listen to White House senior aide, Kellyanne Conway, she's talking about the president's tone and the message for Tuesday night.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: This president is going to call for an end to the politics of resistance, retribution and call for more comity -- C-O-M-I-T-Y.


VAUSE: C-O-M-I-T-Y. Yes, even if Teleprompter Trump turns up, if he uses his indoor voice and he pronounces all the words correctly, what's the point?

Because it's only a matter of time before he fires off a Twitter tirade or some other verbal attack, like what he said about the House Speaker in the "60 Minutes" interview over the weekend, listen to this. TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very rigid, which I would expect. But I think she's very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it is very bad politics because basically she wants open borders.


VAUSE: Maybe the comity should have kicked in over the weekend.

What, it only happens on Tuesday night?

SIDERS: We have now seen a pattern of this, the last two addresses he has given, they have both been fairly standard State of the Union speeches. He reads from the teleprompter, he talks about bipartisanship --


SIDERS: -- as you said things deteriorate quickly. It's lost on nobody, I think, that Democrats begin their investigative hearing later on this week. If nothing else, that should bring an end to it.

But there's something to be said, if you're the president, the fact that 50 million people watch this address tomorrow and that's more than are paying attention to the side remarks he would make about the House Speaker or fights that you and I might care about in the daily flow of the new.

So it is a marker and a tradition that is one, maybe the only tradition of the White House that the president seems to be interested in keeping.

VAUSE: I guess he's broken so many other traditions and norms, it's interesting that he has so much invested in the State of the Union. But we do know that he has a lot of time apparently to work on that speech.

The fact Axios was leaked a copy of Trump's private schedule for the last couple of months. They went through it all; they broke it all down, the orange on the screen represents what is known as executive time, alone time. The bottom line is, the president spent nearly 60 percent of scheduled time in executive time. That's includes tweeting, watching TV as well as phone calls about what's on television.

There is also this official White House schedule from November, it was a Wednesday, the 27th. Executive time, it seems, is so grueling it has to be broken up within an hour and a half for lunch.

But here's the question, who should be more outraged here, his base who sent him to the Capitol to shake up the establishment and actually do stuff?

Or those opposed, who, maybe they should be relieved that he has so much downtime? SIDERS: I don't think the base will mind because I think they are looking at schedules and how much time -- I don't think they care how he spends his day. I think they care what he says, what the message is and what the policies are ultimately.

So I don't think that they will judge him on that. Frankly, I don't think Democrats would judge a Democratic president on whether he spent six hours loafing around. I do think the real issue here and what may be concerning to the base is the fact that the schedule got leaked.

It suggests a White House -- and we have seen this before, where there are people inside the administration who are ready to snake the president. And I think, if you are a Republican supporter of the president, that is a cause for alarm. If you are a Democrat, it's a reason for jump for joy.

VAUSE: Well, yes, there is also the question of the secrecy and nobody really knows what he's doing. He has this alone time. Kellyanne Conway said basically no one really knows, apart from a small inner circle. But we also apparently know that Donald Trump is not using that down time to read up on his intelligence briefings.

According to a report in "Time," one source describes Donald Trump with a willful ignorance. Here's "Time" reporter, John Walcott.


JOHN WALCOTT, FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Well, there are a combination of things. The first one is the president's ignorance. And that goes to the point about thinking that Nepal and Bhutan -- which, incidentally, he also mispronounced as Nipple and Button -- were part of India, which they're not.

BALDWIN: Wait, seriously, that's what he said?

WALCOTT: Seriously.

Second is a lack of curiosity about the world, which is different from other presidents.


VAUSE: And "Politico" refers to Nipple and Button in August so it's out there for some time. This report goes on to say that Trump's angry reactions when he is given information that contradicts his positions he has taken or believes he holds. Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the president intelligence assessments that contradict stances he's taken in public.

It's been this way from the very beginning. If anything, the president seems more determined to defy the advice of those around him. There has been a learning curve here for Donald Trump, it's been in the wrong direction. SIDERS: I think the not reading intelligence reports, that's much more damning I think in a reelection campaign than whether he spends four or six or two or no hours playing golf. I think that is a salient issue -- and maybe in debates. I'm not sure it ends up carrying the day; certainly there was talk in 2016 about his relative lack of experience compared to Hillary Clinton.

But I think that specifics like that are much more resonant than just looking at the schedule.

VAUSE: David, we'll get to you next hour and look at the possible split within the Republican Party over the president's contemplation of at least a national emergency to pay for his wall. We'll catch up with you next hour. Thank you.

SIDERS: Thank you.

VAUSE: And our special coverage of the State of the Union address by Donald Trump and the Democratic response starts at 8:00 pm Eastern time. That's 1:00 am in London and 9:00 am in Hong Kong.

Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, we'll head back to Abu Dhabi, where Pope Francis is preparing for his historic mass. And he also has a special prayer for the people in Yemen.

Also, a new warning from the Pentagon about what will ISIS do once U.S. troops are gone from Syria.


[00:30:00] ANDERSON: You are watching a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi where Pope Francis is making history. Next hour, he will celebrate mass here at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium for more than 100,000 Catholics here in the UAE.

That's right. They are amongst the 1 million Catholics who live here in the UAE. We are lucky to have plucked two very excited members of the congregation, very important people from amongst the crowd, Pakistani Dr. Anjum Bhatti will be praying on the same stage as the Pope (INAUDIBLE) and Catherine Miles-Flynn, an official for St. Joseph's Cathedral, which is where the Pope is at present.

He's there at St. Joseph's on a private visit and will be making his way in his Kia Soul, the new iteration of the popemobile for this environmentally sound Pope. And he will be on his way in that, along the streets of Abu Dhabi, which will be thronged with thousands of people, and Catherine, Anjum, what a day for those who are here with us in Abu Dhabi.

DR. ANJUM BHATTI, PAKISTANI DOCTOR: We are proud to be a part of history, really. You know, first time coming to this part, it's -- meaning, this is the year of tolerance. And I think this moment epitomizes that feeling, really.

ANDERSON: Anjum, you grew up here --


ANDERSON: -- as a little boy, and I know you've come back as a professional and you've been here over the past 13 years. Did you go to church as a kid? Tell us about life here, as a young Catholic boy.

BHATTI: Oh, well, I grew up in Dubai, and I went to St. Mary's Church and I never felt that, you know, there was any problem. You know, I could profess my faith, go to church. I had friends from all different cultures. My best friends were Hindu, Muslim, all the religions you can think about.

I had friends from all of them, and it felt normal. You know, this is the best place to be. You know where people come, live together, live -- forget about their differences and, you know, appreciate what's common between them and, you know, it's just such a lovely place to be.

ANDERSON: You've been here 25 years, I believe.


ANDERSON: How's life?

FLYNN: Oh, we love it here. Our children have grown up here, we both work for the Bishop Paul Hinder and the church is like on steroids here. Today, I'm very proud to be Catholic, but I'm also very proud to be part of the United Arab Emirates. It's an incredible place, phenomenal.

ANDERSON: Good for you, I know that you are (INAUDIBLE) today.


ANDERSON: -- Which is fantastic, and you have a special role on the stage behind us, as the mass starts in an hour's time. What are you doing?

BHATTI: I'm going to pray in my language. Today, I feel like the ambassador not only for my community here, but also for my country, Pakistan. I'll be saying a prayer in my language, Urdu, and it's a very proud moment for me.

[00:35:10] ANDERSON: The tickets for this have been given out by lottery. I mean, I'm sure of the 1.2 million Catholics who are here who are predominantly, actually, Indian and Filipino --

BHATTI: That's true.

ANDERSON: There's probably not a single member of that congregation who wouldn't have liked to have been here. So, the 45,000 who are in the stadium have been lucky enough to get those tickets through a lottery system, I mean, obviously, there's another 90,000 just outside of this stadium, as well.

Talk to us, Catherine, about the build-up to this. FLYNN: Oh my goodness, I think I found out in December 6th, that he was coming, and it's really an answer to a prayer, a prayer by many, many of the faithful here. The flurry of activity at the cathedral, same here as Dubai, the church in Sharjah, I was in Muscat last weekend.

And there are parishes in Ghala, in (INAUDIBLE) and Salalah and Sohar are also sending people and very, very excited. And people are willing to sleep on buses or do whatever it takes.

ANDERSON: And they certainly needed to do that because --


ANDERSON: -- they closed the roads earlier on so people began getting to this stadium where it is now, about a quarter to, what, people will take 25 to 10:00 in the morning. There are people have been here since 2:00, in the morning, at least.

One of the things that the Pope talked about yesterday, and I quote him here, he talked about -- and this was to Muslim and Christian and Jewish leaders here, and these speeches that he made yesterday, as important, I think, as this mass that will be going on for the likes of the congregation like you here.

But he -- be urged leaders here to, and I quote, "contribute actively to demilitarizing the human heart." He specifically cited the crisis in Yemen and Syria and Iraq and in Libya. And he said let us commit ourselves against the logic of our own power.

This is a Pope who is not shy of including in a speech, a narrative which may be uncomfortable for the leadership here.

BHATTI: That's correct. But it must be said, I guess. Someone has to take up the mantle. And the holy father who is the leader of the Catholic Church, we are the largest religious community in the world. So, he's in the best position to do so, I guess.

ANDERSON: Thank you both. With less than an hour to come, I'm going to let you go because I know that you've got an awful lot to do and you continue to need to help, to usher people around, as this stadium, well, it's pretty much full, I have to say.

But like I said, people have been getting here since 2:00 in the morning, so it's no real surprise that the stadium is almost packed to its rafters. There are some seats available behind where the Pope would be and that wouldn't be fair to have given away those seats, they wouldn't be able to see what was going on.

So, if you see some empty seats, that is the region -- reason. To both of you, thank you very much.

FLYNN: Thank you very much.

ANDERSON: We'll be back with you --

BHATTI: Thank you for having us.

ANDERSON: -- just for the top of the hour.

VAUSE: OK, Becky, thank you. The Pentagon is warning a U.S. troop pull-out from Syria will lead to ISIS, claiming victory and most likely, regaining territory. Despite that concern and similar warnings from the intelligent community and Congress, President Trump insists the time has come for a total draw down in Syria.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to get out of these endless wars and bring our folks back home. Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to be watching. With intelligence, we're going to be watching and watching closely. North Korea --

MARGARET BRENNAN, MODERATOR, FACE THE NATION, CBS NEWS: Isn't that harder when you don't have troops on the ground?

TRUMP: Well, everything is harder, but, you know, you pay a big price for troops on the ground. We're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on military. We are a policeman of the world, and we don't have to be --

BRENNAN: Because the concern in here by your intelligence chief, though, is that you could, in that vacuum, see a resurgence of ISIS.

TRUMP: Sure.

BRENNAN: See a resurgence of terrorists like Al Qaeda.

TRUMP: And you know what we'll do? We'll come back if we have to. We have very fast airplanes. We have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly.


VAUSE: Millions of Syrian refugees are still displaced and if they do return home once the fighting is over, there's no guarantee their basic needs will be met. Homes and shops in city after city have been reduced to rubble, a stark reminder of the realities of war. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports now from Eastern Syria.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is not the happiest of homecomings. The town Hajin near the Euphrates River in Eastern Syria, was the scene of intense coalition bombing followed by house to house combat between ISIS and U.S.-backed predominantly Kurdish forces.

It's a repetition of the same scenario that is played out for Mosul to Raqqa, and now here, ISIS' last stand. To save towns and cities from the extremists, they must be destroyed. Zahara returned with her family two days ago, and sells snacks to make some money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Only stones are left, she tells me.

Her little daughter, far too young to comprehend what has happened.

[00:40:06] Some of the residents of this town which was liberated from ISIS, in December, have begun to return, but to return to what, most of the buildings are either severely damaged or utterly destroyed. So the best they can do at this point is just retrieve their belongings and then leave again.

Saad returned last week to find his house in ruins and no way to support a family here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Life was hard under ISIS, he says, but it's still hard, harder still, with this destruction.

There's no sign that any government or other authority has begun to clear the rubble and restore a semblance of normal life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We want to make Hajin like it was in the days of the regime, says Saad. There was a hospital and the roundabout and those buildings, all destroyed because of ISIS.

This war has been pursued with a single-minded focus on defeating the enemy, with scant attention to what happens the day after victory is declared.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Hajin, Eastern Syria.


VAUSE: More than a dozen countries on Monday, officially recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. And all are urging a fresh round of elections as soon as possible. The sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, ignored a Sunday deadline from E.U. countries to call fresh elections. Maduro says the unrest across Venezuela is part of a U.S. plot to force him from office.

Plans are coming together for a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, likely to happen at the end of the month in Vietnam. U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea, met Monday in Seoul, with senior South Korean officials. And in the coming hours, he'll head to the DMZ for a one-on-one with his North Korean counterpart.

Theresa May travels to Northern Ireland on Tuesday, and once there, she's expect to make a promise, to find a solution to the problem, the so-called backstop. That's the mechanism and process which are meant to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

So far, though, it seems to be a problem without a solution, and has been a major sticking point in the British Prime Minister's Brexit deal. And as the clock ticks down to the Brexit deadline and with no deal in place, U.K. business confidence has fallen to its lowest level since the financial crisis.

We'll head back to Abu Dhabi in a moment, where Pope Francis will soon celebrate mass on this historic visit to the UAE.


ANDERSON: Welcome back to Abu Dhabi, what is a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM, where there is a more than palpable sense of excitement, Pope Francis preparing to deliver mass here, less than an hour from now, 135,000 people expected to be in and around the Zayed Sports City Stadium, which is where we are.

As Francis, the first Pope, ever, to visit an Arab Gulf State, will lead mass. Before he left the Vatican, he said a special prayer for the victims of the war in Yemen. And again, here on Monday, he called on religious leaders to help end conflict through this region.

[00:45:14] POPE FRANCIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC LEADER (through translator): Before our eyes are its (INAUDIBLE) consequences. I'm thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. Together, brothers and the one human family desired by God, let us commit ourselves against the logic of armed power, against the monetization of relations, the armaments of borders, the raising of walls, the gagging of the poor.

ANDERSON: That was yesterday. This is today. And you have to forgive any of those little ones in the audience that we are looking at now. It was sort of rubbing their eyes that they've possibly been here now for eight hours and haven't had very much sleep.

Those who were lucky enough to win the lottery or to get tickets in the lottery to be here today, inside the stadium, were told to be here between sort of 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. So there will be some tired little Catholics in this audience today.

But an awful lot of excitement as you can here, and these are live pictures coming to us from in amongst the crowd here. The Pope will be on his way, shortly. You can see the pictures, Delia, of him coming in. But this is the warm up inside.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're, kind of, doing the wave, you know, with their Vatican flags, I mean, it's very well-coordinated, I have to say.

ANDERSON: What's the one message if there was one take away from what will be this is the end of what has been a three-day trip for the Pope? It's a historic trip. First ever trip by a pope, to the Arabian Peninsula. Take away, if you will.

GALLAGHER: Look, I think the point of this trip, all of the speeches and the meeting of dignitaries and even the meeting with the religious leaders, that could really all be done from the Vatican. The point of this trip is this meeting with the average person that is living in a particular country.

And the Pope has been speaking a lot about brotherhood. And so, I think that what the real success, if you want, of a papal trip, is the enthusiasm that is garnered by having a pope (INAUDIBLE) and by a pope showing himself and saying to Christians and Muslims in this particular instance, don't be afraid of one another. You're not enemies and so on. And that message, to young children, is really the point of these trips.

ANDERSON: Omar, Yousef Al Otaiba is the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States, and ahead of the trip here, by the Pope, he wrote in Politico Magazine and I quote, "The Pope's visit will send a strong signal across the region and while people with different beliefs can live, work, and worship together.

But not everyone will embrace or welcome the message. Across the Middle East he said, we face the menace of extremism.

And he continued radical interpretations of Islam represent a tiny minority of those who practice the faith.

GHOBASH: Yes. I agree with that. I think it's very important what's happening at the moment, I mean, what's happening inside Arabia, in terms of the changes of the Crown Prince, implemented in the religious establishment, and the fact that, of course, the head of Azhar University is here as well, and signed the agreement with the Pope.

The (INAUDIBLE) university being in Egypt, there is a, I think, a geopolitical change in the way Islam is going to be expressed. And I think that's extremely important to understand that you now have major financial and political powers of the region, saying we will now take charge and make decisions as communities and societies that really actually do want to live in a more modern and liberal manner.

ANDERSON: Two hundred nationalities here, 1.2 million Catholics, most of whom are from either India or the Philippines in fact, but, I mean, there are Catholics in the community here from sort of all over the place.

And we will continue our special coverage of the Pope's historic visit (INAUDIBLE) Peter, of course, with us, as well, as the Pope prepares to celebrate mass with the more than 100,000 Catholics here, in Abu Dhabi, taking this very quick break, back after this.



ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi, a very good morning to you, where Pope Francis is about to celebrate mass behind us with more than 100,000 Catholics here in Abu Dhabi. He's making his way to Zayed Sports City where we are, and he has received a royal welcome, as the first pope to ever visit the Arabian Peninsula, the birth place, of course, of Islam.

CNN's John Defterios is in the crowd, waiting for the Pope to pass by, on his way in to mass, in that Kia Soul, the new iteration, as it were of that popemobile. John, who have you got with you?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It's amazing. Beck, I'm in a sea of yellow and white behind me here, you can see the flags going up and they're waiting for Pope Francis to drive in, as you were suggesting. We have a Philippine parishioner, Glenn Mapili, from Cebu, who has been in the UAE, almost the same time as I have, seven years, right? I got to beat you by four months.


DEFTERIOS: You're a practitioner that goes to church every week when you can, around your work.


DEFTERIOS: How significant is this for you, personally, seeing Pope Francis coming to Abu Dhabi?

MAPILI: I mean, seeing the leader of my Catholic church coming here, and more importantly, it's an Arab nation, it's really like touches me, like how both Pope and the UAE government are very serious into uniting, I mean, this region has been in turmoil in such a long time already.

DEFTERIOS: Since you've been here, as a matter of fact, right?

PILI: Yes. And then, I think it's very high time that these leaders have set an example, where in especially the country has its message of tolerance, I mean, we need to respect other religions, right? And Pope Francis have come here, I mean, I understand it's been a long exercise I've done. I'm back in 2007 and finally, they've come.

It creates a message in the entire world that dialogue, discussion, respect to one another, with each beliefs, this will be the -- I mean, we'll have harmony in this place.

DEFTERIOS: Well, it's interesting because people talk about tolerance, 88 percent of the population are not UAE nationals. Do you ever feel this idea that you can't go to church or there is any hostility about you going to church or is it wide open? It's extraordinary to think that the majority of the population is from outside, a vast majority.

MAPILI: So, to be honest, before I came here, I was like the rest of the people, right? Whenever you hear about Middle East, you feel like, is it safe there? I mean, so many things that are said by other people who don't have the right data.

When I came here, it changes my perspective, like, when I was in the Philippines, I was surrounded with mostly Catholics, with my family and most believing with our religion, when I came here, it's pretty diverse, lots of people have their own religion, background and -- but people doesn't mind.

You work together, I work with Deloitte before, and then transferred, and I worked with couple of peoples, religion hasn't been an issue. They understand your own beliefs and then I started to understand that each people will have their own belief.

And as long as people, like, respect each other and listen to their briefs, I mean, everybody has a right do that, right? And I really appreciate that UAE has been really supportive on maintaining this openness on the religion and the rights to believe in your own. DEFTERIOS: OK. I really appreciate you taking your time out from the prayers. I was watching you in your services, earlier. I'm glad you made it. You've been here for hours. Glenn Mapili, back here coming from Dubai, a Filipino from Cebu, and has been, as I have said, in the country, for just over seven years, going into his eight year here, back to you.

ANDERSON: Yes. And some fascinating -- some fascinating remarks as well, John, thank you for that. Delia, Omar, and Peter, still with me, and we've got a couple of minutes before we hit the top of the hour, we'll be back after that.

The Pope conducting mass here in about 30 odd minute's time, he is now on his way to the stadium to the delight of the tens of thousands of people who are standing at the side of the road, as it were waiting to see him come through.

[00:55:13] He has not been shy in coming forward with a number of things, not least some comments about urging leaders here to contribute actively to demilitarizing the human heart. He said let us commit ourselves against the logic of armed power.

He said he looked forward to societies where people of different beliefs had the same right of citizenship. This is -- this is not a papal visit where the leader of the Catholic Church was expected to just turn up and smile.

GALLAGHER: That's right. Now, he made those comments in a religious context. So that's key, because he didn't have a political speech here. So he put his political comments to a group of religious leaders, but obviously, they are comments that go beyond just the audience that was there with him. But yes, he went very hard on some political issues.

ANDERSON: Omar, through the prism of the UAE, just how important is this trip? And what do you think has been achieved at this point?

GHOBASH: Well, first of all, I would just like to say that, you know -- when we invited the Pope, we didn't give him talking points and it wasn't a P.R. stunt. These are all expected issues to be raised, I mean, we also look at the situation, for example, in Yemen and Syria and we think what we can do to alleviate the pain and suffering.

I think it's extremely important also for us to recognize the contribution of Christians to the Arab world, going back to the 19th century and their role in developing a sense of Arabic identity, as well as the contributions to literature and philosophical thoughts on the region.

So, the fact that the Pope has come here and said, you know, there has to be a place for Christians (INAUDIBLE) is actually something that we support very much as well. I think, most important it sets the tone for what comes next. And it's not a one off, it's something that we need to actually take the tolerance as a challenge for us (INAUDIBLE)

ANDERSON: But as you speak, the first images of the Pope in the Kia Soul, that's the latest iteration of the popemobile as it was formally known. And here he is, it's a beautiful morning, it has to be said in Abu Dhabi.

And the Pope now on his way towards where we are here at the stadium, in fact, I think it looks as if he is on his way in to the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, and to the delight, as I say, the throngs of people who have been lining the streets. In fact, he's still on his way, and you can see that's a good shot.

There are lots and lots and lots of people on the streets of Abu Dhabi today, as Pope Francis makes his way towards Sheikh Zayed Stadium where he will deliver mass in a half an hour's time. And you can see the crowds here. They know he's on his way and they are extremely excited.

John, that's it for most of the time being. We'll be back to you shortly. Thank you, viewers, for watching this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi.

VAUSE: What an incredible looking day it is there too, in Abu Dhabi. Becky, thank you. I'm Jon Vause. We will be back with more coverage of the Pope's historic to the Middle East. You're watching CNN.