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Thousands Gather For Papal Mass in Abu Dhabi; Pope Francis Celebrating Mass In Abu Dhabi; Much Of Eastern Syria Has Been Reduced To Rubble; Hakeem Al-Araibi Fights Extradition To Bahrain. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 5, 2019 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to a very special hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church in Atlanta.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi, where Pope Francis will be leading thousands of the faithful shortly in a mass here at Zayed Stadium.


ANDERSON: Catholic history being made right now in Abu Dhabi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ANDERSON (voice-over): A mass with Pope Francis has been underway for about 30 minutes here at Zayed Sports City. He arrived in the UAE on Sunday, becoming the first Roman Catholic pope to ever visit the Arabian Peninsula.

Islam is the dominant religion here but the UAE is also home to about a million Catholics, more than 100,000 are here with us now, many of them expats from India and the Philippines.

John Defterios is in amongst the crowds just outside this stadium, watching this mass on giant screens. He's with us now -- John.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR (voice-over): Thanks, Becky. It is quiet, you can almost hear a pin drop, with the exception of the Latin mass being presided here by Pope Francis and you see the translation below.

This is a sea of people from the developing world, primarily Indians, Pakistanis, the Libyans, the Filipinos we've all talked to in the last couple of hours. I want to keep my voice down because we're in the middle of prayer.

But I want to introduce some from Lebanon who remembers the visit of Pope John Paul II when he went to Lebanon, which is a much younger person. But it gets you to see Pope Francis in person. Cynthia Agha (ph)

works here in Abu Dhabi and has been in the country for a number of years.

What do you think of the mass as you see it unfolding before your eyes here in Abu Dhabi?

CYNTHIA AGHA (PH), PARISHIONER: I'm really honored to be here and to be attending the holy mass and having His Holiness here in the region. It's a beautiful ceremony and I'm grateful that I got the opportunity to be part of it.

DEFTERIOS: People have been saying this is the year of tolerance, 2019, something the UAE government's been fostering, working for years to bring the pope here with the grand imam from Egypt.

What does tolerance mean to you?

Because some would say it's just a cliche; it's something the government wanted to embrace. You see it very, very differently.


AGHA (PH): Tolerance is all about having people with different beliefs but they want to live and coexist together. They come together through all their differences and they still try to find the common way of living together and doing, like growing their communities.

DEFTERIOS (voice-over): If you look at your community back in Lebanon and the tensions that we see on the ground, with Hezbollah and the tensions with the Christian community, how is it different in the UAE despite all the tensions we have in the Middle East and North Africa in your view, why is it different with the religious freedom?

AGHA (PH): It's different here because they really do respect that people have different beliefs and different political views. But I think like no one here comes to express their political views. And we try to just deal with people with full respect, without trying to impose our thoughts.

DEFTERIOS: Good. Let's just take a look at the crowd behind you. It must be, what do you feel, watching all these people come in to see Pope Francis and the overflow crowd, which is about over 90,000 people outside the stadium.

What does it do for your emotions when you see people standing side by side very peacefully, no pushing, no shoving and full attentiveness?

AGHA (PH) (voice-over): I feel overwhelmed. Actually, when the pope passed, my heart was beating really fast, because you feel His Holiness being around. You feel so much joy and so much peace around, exactly as you said, everybody is really watching the mass. I am disturbing, talking through it.

DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Yes. He sent a strong message about Yemen before leaving, saying that we needed to listen to the cries of the children and women. You said that resonated with you in particular as a woman, a professional today, wanting to raise a family.

Why did it strike such a chord with you?

AGHA (PH) (voice-over): I do believe that women, their players are always heard by God and kids with their innocence and they shouldn't be with us in war. They should be living in peace and playing. So I think this is the right time for His Holiness to be here and together with the rulers of this country and they would work on solving this issue --


AGHA (PH) (voice-over): -- in Yemen and that the war would stop there.

DEFTERIOS: That's a priority going forward.

AGHA (PH): Yes.

DEFTERIOS: We appreciate you stepping away from prayers to talk to us.

Cynthia Agha (ph) is a financial professional, Becky, here in Abu Dhabi, taking in the service.

I said before, it's hard not to be moved on the grounds here outside the stadium, watching people with the white hats, flying the flags with the yellow and the white and the emblem of the Vatican and seeing the grand imam here side by side with him, it's quite moving. Everyone I've spoken to in the last few hours has said exactly the same thing.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Thank you, John.

We've got the movers and shakers with us here. John talking to those in the crowd. I've got His Excellency, Jaber Lamki, executive director of the UAE National Media Council who helped put all this together very, very quickly.

The author and influential Emirati diplomat, Omar Saif Ghobash, a key player in bringing the UAE to the world and the world to the UAE, letting events like this happen, and historian, Peter Hellyer, who can help us see how all of this was hundreds of years, Peter, in the making.

This is an historic day, first papal mass by a pontiff in the Arabian Peninsula.

PETER HELLYER, HISTORIAN (voice-over): Of course it's historic. Christianity has been around in the region for a very long time. It reached Arabia before the birth of Islam and continued after the birth of Islam, as well, here in the UAE and in other parts of the peninsula. But, of course, this is a remarkable historic day. There have been

church leaders from other churches that have come to the peninsula before, the Coptic pope from Egypt is a frequent visitor to the UAE and the leaders of some of the Eastern Orthodox Church is also a frequent leader.

But to have the Catholic pope, that is a first time in Arabia. Of course, this is historic. It's historic for the Catholic community. I think it's historic for the Catholic Church and it's certainly historic for the people of the peninsula and the people of the UAE.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Many of those Catholics here will be Indian or Filipinos. Many of them will be migrant workers. The irony of the freedom for religious faith here to conduct yourself in whatever church, faith you have, juxtaposed with the idea of political expression not being as tolerated as religious interfaith will not be lost on our viewers.

OMAR SAIF GHOBASH, UAE AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE). It's linked with the idea but we're a society that's moved from a very sort of basic form, 40-50 years ago in the desert to being launched or hurled into the 21st century.

Political expression is something that will come with time. What we have noticed, unfortunately, is the misuse of political expression, the brainwashing of idealistic young men and women, whether it's for very political purposes with the Muslim Brotherhood or into Al Qaeda and ISIS and radical forms of Islam.

It's something that saddens us but also we think in the future we'll get there.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Before we continue about the importance of symbolism, the significance of this trip, before the top of this hour, we talked about the logistics that go into pulling off an event like this in many parts of the world, a government or those involved in the organization would have months and months. Here, you didn't have months and months.

JABER AL LAMKI, UAE NATIONAL MEDIA COUNCIL: Honestly, it was a very short, exhausting time here for all of us. I'm glad just to have this opportunity to thank everyone to make this happen, from the people at the immigration, at the airports, the security, the policemen, the ambulance and even the people on the ground.

And to see Emirati volunteers coming together just to make sure that everything was smoothly and giving directions to people and working overnight, like people who are piling up from 11:00 pm, getting ready to come to Sports City for this important papal visit.

ANDERSON: Let me tell you, there were people here at the stadium by sort of 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and all that has to be organized, the roads have to be closed off, the buses have to be organized to get people in. It's been a feat of logistics, so we congratulate you.

AL-LAMKI: Thank you. [02:10:00]

ANDERSON: On that, as we continue to listen to the pope, who is now delivering mass here to the fateful, as we say, 135,000-odd people, both inside and outside of this stadium.

And somebody said to me the other day that I think the papal mass in Dublin late last year was something like 120,000. I think the Emirates will be very proud there's more than those who were able to listen to mass in what is an historically Catholic country, so that will be a win as far as the UAE is concerned.

We are going to do some other news. We will come back and have a listen to what's going on here and discuss the importance, the significance, the symbolism of this historic trip by the pope to the Arabian Peninsula for the very first time, when I get you back from this very short break. Stay with us.




ANDERSON: No matter if you're a believer or not or where you're from, it is hard not to be moved by what is going on here by this beautiful poetic history in the making as Pope Francis makes the first ever papal visit to an Arab Gulf state and celebrates mass, symbolic, powerful, meaningful, right now just behind me and all around me, an estimated 135,000 listening to his every word.

The atmosphere serene and peaceful here after the roars upon his arrival. The weather is absolutely perfect. On his trip to what can sometimes be a brutal region, the pope, calling on all countries to reject war with special mention of the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. A lot more from Abu Dhabi in just a moment. First back to Rosemary Church at CNN Center with other news for you.

CHURKIN: A witness to history in the making. Thank you so much, Becky, we'll come back to you soon.

At least seven are dead after a fire broke out in a Paris apartment house. Media reports say Monday night's blaze injured 27, including three firefighters. The fire service told local media the death toll might still rise because the blaze is not completely under control --


CHURCH: -- on the top two floors. The search for residents is still underway. No word yet on how the fire started in the building located in the 16th Arondissement, an affluent part of Western Paris that's home to embassies and Roland Garros stadium.

U.S. president Donald Trump is preparing for his State of the Union speech, facing questions about whether he will shut down the government again to get his southern border wall. Now there are also questions about how he's spending his time in the White House. Jim Acosta has the details.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Looking to get the administration back on track after a costly government shutdown, aides say President Trump will try something different in Tuesday's State of the Union speech, appeal for bipartisanship.

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.

ACOSTA: The president is telling reporters he simply can't understand why Democrats would want to impeach him, given the job he's done.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way they can win, because they can't win the election, is to bring out the artificial way of impeachment. And the problem is you can't impeach somebody for doing the best job of any president in the history of our country for the first two years.

ACOSTA: But a new CNN poll finds Mr. Trump's job approval at a cringe-worthy 40 percent as the public is adamantly against the idea of the president declaring a national emergency to build his border wall.

By contrast it's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who bested Mr. Trump in their showdown, whose numbers are on the rise, above where they were before the shutdown. Don't tell the president that one.

TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very rigid, which I would expect. But I think she's very bad for our country.

ACOSTA: With Democrats feeling emboldened, there's another battle looming over whether the president would authorize the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings in the Russia investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: Would you make the report public because you say there's nothing in there?

TRUMP: Totally up to the attorney general.

BRENNAN: Congress can subpoena it anyway, though.

TRUMP: Totally up to the attorney general.

BRENNAN: What do you want them to do?

TRUMP: Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign.

ACOSTA: That's a strange response, as the Mueller report hasn't even been released.

The president has plenty of time to study up on the issue. The news site Axios found the president has spent about 60 percent of his scheduled time in what's called "executive time," the unstructured and largely unmonitored part of his day. That's used for tweeting, watching TV and talking to advisers on the phone.

In respond to that stunning leak of closely-guarded information, the White House said, "While the president spends much of his average day in scheduled meetings, events and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive president in modern history."

CONWAY: Whoever leaked it doesn't know what he's doing during that block of time, so that's pretty obvious. I'm told -- I'm told 388 people have access to that broader schedule. But very few have access to the other schedule.

ACOSTA: But Democrats are pouncing, wondering what happened to Mr. Trump's boasts about his stamina.

TRUMP: She doesn't have the look. She doesn't have the stamina. I said she doesn't have the stamina. And I don't believe she does have the stamina.

ACOSTA: One decision the president has made in recent days has been to tap White House doctor Ronnie Jackson as his chief medical adviser, even though allegations that the physician has been abusive toward colleagues are under investigation at the Pentagon.

But the president likes the doctor, who praised Mr. Trump's health last year.

DR. RONNIE JACKSON, TRUMP'S PHYSICIAN: He has incredibly good genes. And it's just the way God made him.

ACOSTA: As for the president's move to offer the job of Interior Secretary to the current acting secretary in that job, Mr. Trump has a number of officials in acting roles these days, from his attorney general to his Defense Secretary to even his White House chief of staff, raising the question, with all that executive time, why does he have so many officials in acting roles? -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.



CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about all of this is "The Washington Post" White House correspondent, Toluse Olorunnipa.

Thank you for being with us.


CHURCH: The president's upcoming State of the Union address has been overshadowed by the leaking of his schedule, which, according to Axios, reveals he spends about 60 percent of his schedule in executive time, which means tweeting, watching television, making calls, that sort of thing.

What does that tell us about the president and perhaps more importantly about the fact that someone very close to him leaked this information?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. This is a leak that has really rocked the White House. There are a number of aides within the White House that are really shocked that someone working close by them is willing to leak this information about the president. It paints an unflattering picture about how he spends his time.

We have known for a long time that the president watches a lot of cable news. He spends a lot of his time with unstructured scheduling, tweeting, calling people on the phone, doing things that you normally would not expect a president who has a very -- normally would have a very busy schedule have a very significant agenda to take part on.

But this is a president who likes to do things sort of ad hoc and off- the-cuff. He doesn't like to have as much structure around him. He does like to have a lot of free time on his schedule so that he can, you know, watch --


OLORUNNIPA: -- the news, read the news and figure out how to structure his day around what he sees on TV.

But the fact that the president is getting ready to go into the State of the Union, knowing that there's somebody within the White House who is willing to leak negative information about him, cannot be a positive sign as he goes into his second State of the Union as he prepares to really kick off his third year in office and tries to figure out how to battle with the Democrats who have been very strong in opposing his agenda.

Now, he has people fighting with him within his own administration and all of the time that he is spending an executive time has not produced very much in terms of a legislative victory. So, this is a president that is struggling to figure out how to sort of turn the page from a very troubling month so far and the year of 2019 has been tough for the president with the longest ever government shutdown.

CHURCH: Right.

OLORUNNIPA: But he is going to the State of the Union hoping to turn the page.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, one would think it would be very destabilizing with someone so very close, only a few people know about that particular schedule.

But of course, as you mentioned, the president focusing on his State of the Union address for Tuesday night when he will apparently appeal for bipartisanship and less politics and could perhaps declare a national emergency to get his border wall built. What would be the ramification of just such a move considering that most Americans, according to the polls we're seeing, don't want that wall built, certainly not as a result of a national emergency being declared?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. That's exactly right. The president has said over the past few days that he was setting the stage for the national emergency with the government shutdown and now with the State of the Union, but he hasn't really been able to move the needle in terms of the public approving of this.

There is a very strong level of disapproval for declaring a national emergency and building a wall without Congress and the wall itself is not necessarily broadly popular with the American people, even though Republicans tend to support it.

So, this State of the Union is an opportunity for the president to try to move public opinion on this. He has had multiple tries to impact the public sentiment around the wall and around the border struggle but he hasn't really been able to get very much in terms of public support.

So, the idea that he is going to go ahead and build the wall with a national emergency is something that is even less popular than the wall itself.

And you have a number of Republicans who are in Congress who believe that they should have the power over how the money and how the budget is set and they do not want the president to move forward without consulting them.

So, the president is likely to split members of his own party and he's going to see some resistance from even within his party if he decides to go forward with the national emergency and casts Congress and their will to the side.

So that's something that the president has to think about as he decides whether or not to go full steam ahead with this national emergency, it's that not only are Democrats strongly opposed but Republicans are also split on this issue, with several Republicans saying they do not want him to move forward with a national emergency declaration.

CHURCH: But he doesn't seem to care about the numbers, though, does he, because he's seeing very little support for the building of the wall. President Trump's approval rating is at around 40 percent, according to the latest CNN poll, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi's numbers are on the rise.

How concerned would the White House be about those numbers?

President Trump doesn't appear to care.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, the number that he cares about more than those broad numbers are approval among his base. The president's focusing on the 35 percent of voters; sometimes as high as 40 percent of voters, who support him very strongly, who do support the wall.

These are Republican voters who have called for the president to fulfill his promise. He campaigned for 1.2 years saying build the wall and he has not been able to deliver on that.

So that's part of the reason he's willing to fight so hard for an unpopular idea because even though it's unpopular with the broad American public, it is something that he promised to his base of support. And he's focusing on those base voters, hoping that they can propel him into a second term.

We have seen the president's poll numbers be very low for the course of his presidency. But he hasn't maintained strong support among his base. But if he's not able to deliver a wall, he fears that he can lose support among the base who would be able to say you promised to do this; you did not keep your promises.

So now we're not going to support you. So that is what the president is focusing on and that's why he's pursuing policies that appear unpopular with the broader public but are popular with his people.

CHURCH: So by declaring the national emergency, though, it looks like he's trying to get the wall built but ultimately the courts will decide this and will likely come down on the decision not to go forward, right?

So he actually has a bit of a win there by the optics of calling or declaring a national emergency for his wall.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. The president wants to be seen as fight as hard as possible. That's why he shut down the government for more than a month. That's why he has promised to declare a national emergency if he doesn't get money for a wall from the Democrats.

So the president just wants to have the --


OLORUNNIPA: -- optical win. It's not clear that he would be able to actually build a wall without getting an appropriation from Congress. This would be a constitutional clash between the president's powers to protect the country, in his words, versus the Congress' power to decide how money is spent. It would end up being decided by the courts.

It's not clear how that would be decided but the fact that the president has said I'm going to declare a national emergency but only if Congress doesn't give me what I want. It does sort of undercut the idea that there is a national emergency. It sounds like there's more of a political emergency for the president.

And that is an argument that he'd have to fight out in court and the president's track record in court has not been so great over the past two years. He's suffered a number of defeats. This could be another one if he decides to go this route. . CHURCH: Right. Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate it.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.


CHURCH: 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.

More than a dozen countries are now calling on Venezuela's military to support opposition leader Juan Guaido. The Lima Group was formed in 2017 to bring an end to the crisis in Venezuela. They met in Canada on Monday, urging a peaceful transition to democracy, free and fair elections and respect for human rights.

Guaido, who declared himself acting president last month, also got the support of more than a dozen European countries on Monday.


JUAN GUAIDO, SELF-DECLARED ACTING VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There is recognition by friends, liberty, equality, fraternity from Germany, from Spain, United Kingdom, Polonia, Lithuania, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Estonia, of more than 20 nations is there recognition to all of you Venezuelan that have never stopped fighting and we will not stop from doing it until we reach democracy and freedom in Venezuela.


CHURCH: Venezuela's sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, ignored a Sunday deadline from E.U. countries to call new elections. His foreign ministry said the U.S. is leading an effort to topple him. CNN's Isa Soares has more now from neighboring Colombia.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. And if these images are anything to go by, he's hiding it well.

In the last 24 hours, a host of European nations have thrown their support behind national assembly leader and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido, this after Maduro failed to respond to Europe's ultimatum to call early presidential elections.

Despite the loss of support and the tens of thousands who protested against him at the weekend, Maduro isn't budging, standing and sounding defiant. Speaking to Spanish television, he had this message for U.S. president Donald Trump.

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): Stop, stop Donald Trump. You are making mistakes. They are going to stain your hands with blood.

SOARES: Meanwhile, the LIMA Group of nations meeting in Ottawa, Canada, are promising to help the millions of Venezuelans who are struggling to survive as they face hunger, corruption and hyperinflation. Germany is promising more than $5 million in aid. Canada is stepping up, too.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER, CANADA: Canada is stepping up and announcing $53 million to address the most pressing needs of Venezuelans on the ground, including the almost 3 million refugees.

SOARES: The first round of humanitarian aid is expected to be making its way to Cucuta, the border between Colombia and Venezuela by the end of this week.

GUAIDO (through translator): This is not a Right or Left issue. It is about human beings. This is an emergency. It is a crisis. We are announcing this immediately and making the determination for this to enter the country and for it to be distributed efficiently and where it is most needed.

SOARES: This will no doubt rattled Nicolas Maduro who says that Venezuela is not a country of beggars and who has even denied there even being a humanitarian crisis.

SOARES (voice-over): The challenge will be on the military and where their allegiance lies, with the people or with Maduro -- Isa Soares, CNN, Bogota, Columbia.


CHURCH: Coming up, we will take you back live to Abu Dhabi, where Pope Francis is on a history-making visit and celebrating mass with more than 100,000 Catholics. Back in a moment.


[02:32:16] ANDERSON: Well, welcome back to what is a very special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi where Pope Francis is making history. You are with us in the UAE, the United Arab Emirates, and as I often connect the world from this city, the pope helping make the world united from here. And we have just heard prayers in six languages, in French, in Tagalog, in Urdu, and Konkani to name a few.

So many of the fateful here hailing from India, in the Philippines, the pope giving mass in Abu Dhabi, the near angelic voices of the choir echoing around. There are just way too many people to all fit in. Here is John Defterios is outside the stadium. There are 45,000 people here inside the stadium, masses about two thirds of the way through. There are almost 100,000 people outside the stadium and John in amongst them. John?

DEFTERIOS: Yes. Thanks very much, Becky. As we watch on the big screens, we have six big screens that we can watch the finalization of the mass and the communion has been given out. But you've been talking about that number, 90,000 expected, maybe up to 100,000 outside. This is what it looks like. It's a sea of people, parishioners that have come from near and far in the UAE to take in the mass.

As you can see now, you -- with the exception of the music that we hear, silence across as people pray, extraordinary feeling on the ground. And the shot that we just took for you there is just half of the crowd because the pope drove right in between and there's an equal amount of people on the other side. Let's bring in two parishioners. We've been trying to get a taste over the last few hours of the different people who are coming in to the UAE.

We have a couple here (INAUDIBLE) who are both Palestinians who have lived in different corners of the world. Great to have you on CNN and thanks again for breaking away from prayer. First, your thoughts about seeing so many people coalescing for prayer outside for the first time in the UAE, a pretty powerful message. But what does it feel like to be actually in the mass yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's overwhelming and very spiritual and it feels great to be together with everyone praying.

DEFTERIOS: Did you think it would be like this (INAUDIBLE) in terms of gathering this many people? You are suggesting this is now something we should only do with the pope, but now that we've done this exercise, it should be something almost normalized in the region?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean I'd like to say two things actually with love and prayer no matter race, religion, or background.

[02:35:01] We should all be able to come together and live the right way of life and be happy. Second thing is that, look, we're outside a sports arena, you know what I mean, and there are -- what? I think 135,000 people gathered. We're not in a church, yet we can still pray together, you know what I mean? So I think this is a great first step. Hopefully, we can keep doing it. Hopefully, the world can realized that we can all do it. We're in a Muslim country. This is an amazing experience, very emotional, great emotions, very spiritual, excuse me, spiritual, and I hope we can continue doing it.

DEFTERIOS: Yes. We often talk about tolerance, but the other number, it's a Muslim country, but 90 percent of the population is like you, they're from somewhere else. They're expats. What does that tell you in your view about what tolerance is all about (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This country welcomes everybody.

DEFTERIOS: And why does it though? Is it a security issue, business opportunity issue, do you think (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I think -- I think it's smart. It's bringing people from all over the world, different background, different education to, you know, build, and develop, and innovate. That'


DEFTERIOS: Yes, what else could you ask for as well. You both lived in Saudi Arabia at different parts of your life. I don't want to jump to conclusions (INAUDIBLE) but do you think this is something with different leadership in Saudi Arabia we can see churches in the side of the two holy mosque as the UAE is an ally of Saudi Arabia and they welcomed the pope here on their soil and their sands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, with Mohammed bin Salman as leader right now and he's being very open the fact that women are driving as (INAUDIBLE) said that now they're not even wearing (INAUDIBLE) this could be a step in maybe five or ten years that they are opening it up to the Christian community as well, just again, to keep people together, to bring people together. We are all one people, you know what I mean?

Like I mentioned no matter race, religion, or background, we are all human. So, yes, I think there might be a direction to go that way.

DEFTERIOS: OK. Great. Thanks again for stepping away. Once again (INAUDIBLE) it's nice to meet you and thanks again from stepping away from the service. A lot of sub plots there, Becky, but you can see the emotion that they're putting into their thoughts as people gathered here outside. As we said, at least 90,000 outside of the grounds of the Sheikh Zayed Sports City which is extraordinary. It's the first time that's happened and then you can get that sense of emotion from people here as they break away from prayers.

ANDERSON: Yes. Yes, absolutely. (INAUDIBLE) the same thing here within the stadium where there are some 45,000 gathered. And back with me, Emirati diplomat, Omar Saif Ghobash, historian, Peter Hellyer, and Jaber al-Lamki who is the Executive Director of the UAE's National Media Council. If this trip by the pope to the UAE was an effort by this country to sort of burnish this idea of coexistence, tolerance in what is this year of tolerance, the fact that we've just heard prayers in five languages here really sort of speaks to that point, doesn't it?

HELLYER: Well, it speaks to the diversity of the Catholic Church. But also that diversity of the UAE that we go so many communities, so many different languages, and it all works together pretty well. And, yes, the UAE has a philosophy tolerance. It's been there from the founding of the state. It was something that was very much encouraged by and promoted by Sheikh Zayed who was the founder of the UEA in 1971.

And so, it's integral to the nature of what the UAE is. This is a marvelous reflection of it. But if you look around Abu Dhabi today, if you talk to people, the Muslim community are also very excited by this visit. They see if it is a real recognition of the nature of the diversity, the tolerance in the UAE, and I think everybody in UAE is very proud of this occasion. It's something to build on, something to work with as we move forward in the year of tolerance. But it is a pretty impressive start to the year.

ANDERSON: Nobody's perfect of course and we can talk about the kind of wider issue of tolerance here and discussed perhaps, Omar, whether, you know, the year of tolerance is anything more than just a (INAUDIBLE) sort of P.R. stunt or, you know, a sort of cliche. But before we do that, a powerful celebration of common humanity and compassion. That would be a wonderful way of describing what we are listening to and seeing here.

Also, how the Sunday Times newspaper described the book that you wrote some years ago, Letters to a Young Muslim. Just describe what that effort was about and why.

[02:40:00] GHOBASH: Well, I'm actually really pleased to be able to say that my instincts three years ago as I was writing a book while on track, I was trying to express what I had grown up with. Definitely, there were certain elements within the community that were very radical. And yet, the broader community that I was living in had an openness to the outsider, an openness to all kinds of cultures, and that was something that was very, very present.

What I was trying to give expression to was precisely that. And so, to see a few years after my book came out that the pope is here and the tolerance has become something that we're actively engaged in is really kind of reassuring.

ANDERSON: This was a book to you a youngster.

GHOBASH: My young -- yes. My older -- well, he's 18 now, young man, a son.

ANDERSON: Amazing. Let's talk about tolerance. The pope has alluded to the crisis in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Libya while he's been here in the UAE, part of the Saudi-led coalition campaign fighting the Houthis in Yemen. And there will be those views who say a year of tolerance in 2020 and good luck to the UAE. But really? Really?

GHOBASH: Absolutely. The Ministry of Tolerance I think was actually set up in 2016. This has been something that has been growing as kind of a concept.

ANDERSON: How do you respond to those critics who say how can the UAE sell itself as a tolerant community, so far as the politics of concerned when UAE say much more muscular on the international state and in involved in conflicts like Yemen of course?

GHOBASH: Well, it's not out of intolerance that we are engaged in those wars. We are -- I mean we were put on the back foot with Iranian interference in Yemen and part of the problem is perhaps we need more tolerance within the Islamic faith and particularly between some of the more extreme -- some of the expressions and the expressions that you can find in places like Iran and Iraq. Perhaps what we learned today is if we can accept the complete outsider then perhaps we should be able to also understand how we can tolerate each other.

And perhaps build some mechanisms that will allow us to calm some of these misunderstandings down.

ANDERSON: You've worked very hard to ensure that this event (INAUDIBLE) is successful. Just step back for a moment and just reflect as we move forwards what is the backend now of this Papal Mass, the first Papal Mass here in the Arabian Peninsula. As an Emirati, how does this feel?

AL-LAMKI: Well, sometimes you don't have the right words to expression this feeling. But I can say being part of this whole experience itself and seeing all the logistics and preparation and everyone really working their best level to have a smooth operations, zero accidents in the road, making this experience wonderful for everyone, providing food, water, logistics.

It's really something that I will always remember in terms of my career and I'm being proud to be part of this symbolic gathering. Where you see really here, one of the interesting things when we're talking about and just reflecting some of your questions about the tolerance, tolerance is not just a word. It's a practice. You walk the talk. You see people here. Even Muslims are today part of that. I mean being part of this. This is a clear message that we really can live together. We can coexist.

We can accept each other's and their differences. But it takes two to tango to make that happen and we need to put really serious efforts to say, let's fire the extremists and then, you know, the hate speech, and all of that. We can really do it if we really work together. And I think yesterday when the grand imam and the pope have signed the declaration, that is by itself, is something that we need to keep in mind, 3.3 billion people from the Christianity and Muslims coming together to say enough is enough.

We can live together. We can coexist.

ANDERSON: The declaration of human paternity I think is how it has been described. And as we listen to what is the last 15 minutes or so of this Papal Mass I think, Jaber, you've sort of hit the nail on the head. Your sense it seems to me as an Emirati. This is a humbling experience to some degree. But also, an experience that this country hopes, this region hopes will provide some answers to some really, really difficult questions and what has been a complicated and messy region now for so long.

We're going to take a very short break. We'll let you listen in to what's going on here as we do that. We'll see you on the other side.


ANDERSON: Welcome back to what is a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. It is a day of pure jubilation for Catholics here in this city as Pope Francis celebrating Mass. Behind me, in front of more than 100,000 people, is first visit ever by a pope to an Arab Gulf State.

Pope Francis calling on all countries to reject war with special prayers for peace in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and in Libya. Much more ahead from Abu Dhabi for you right now. Let's get you back to Rosemary Church at CNN Center.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We'll see you in just a moment. Thanks so much, Becky. Well, millions of Syrian refugees are still displaced and if they do return home once the fighting is done, there's no guarantee their basic needs will be met. Homes and shops have been reduced to rubble and serve as a stark reminder of the reality of war. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from Eastern Syria.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is not the happiest of homecomings. The town of 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 from Mosul to Raqqa, and now, here ISIS's last stand. To save towns and cities from the extremists, they must be destroyed.

Sahara returned with her family two days ago and sells snacks to make some money. "Only stones are left," she tells me. Her little daughter, far too young to comprehend what has happened.

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.

Face returned last week to find his house in ruins, and no way to support a family here. "Life was hard under ISIS," he says. "But it's still hard, harder still with this destruction."

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

"We want to make Hajin like it was in the days of the regime," says Sod. "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.


[02:50:59] CHURCH: Australia is calling for the release of a footballer and refugee jailed in Thailand. Hakeem Al-Araibi plays for a Melbourne Club and he's fighting extradition to his native Bahrain. He is a critic of the government there and says he was tortured before fleeing in 2014. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has more on his case.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Barefoot in Thailand and locked up in chains. A nightmare far from what Hakeem al-Araibi imagined when he flew off on his honeymoon. "Tell my wife, I love her." He says before he is hauled back to the Bangkok cell where he has been since November. Al-Araibi will spend another two months locked up after telling a Thai Court on Monday that he will fight extradition to Bahrain. The country where he says he was tortured and jailed for his political beliefs, and likely will be again.

ALLAN MCKINNON, AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR TO THAILAND: We are asking Prime Minister Prayut to allow Hakeem Al-Araibi to return to Australia. He is a refugee. Allow him to return to Australia, to his friends and his family, in the Australian community.

LU STOUT: Australia gave Al-Araibi political asylum in 2014. When the footballer flew to Thailand with his new wife in November, an Interpol Red Notice was issued for his arrest. An international warrant that is not supposed to be given to refugees.

Bahrain wants him jail for his part in a pro-democracy protest. And has defended the extradition request, saying that claims Al-Araibi would not receive a fair trial or would face torture are "false reports," but rights advocates remain unconvinced.

FRANCIS AWARITEFE, VICE-PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLERS: Hakeem is a refugee. He is a human rights defender. And therefore, under International Law, he should not be the subject for this proceedings.

For now, Al-Araibi, says he is trying to stay fit while in prison as for when he plays football again that's up to Thailand.


LU STOUT: And in the past few days, a number of big-name footballers including Didier Drogba and Gary Lineker have taken up Al-Araibi's case online. Some of his supporters have even said that Thailand should be barred from staging international matters if he is sent back to Bahrain. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

CHURCH: And coming up. We will return to Abu Dhabi where the pope has been celebrating Mass with more than 100,000 Catholics during his historic visit to the UAE. We're back in just a moment.


[02:55:12] ANDERSON: Well, Pope Francis has been celebrating Mass with more than 100,000 Catholics during what has been a historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula. We are at Zayed Sports City, the site of the Mass. This is his final event during what has been a whirlwind trip.

And as people begin to move around, this is now the end of this mass which for those gathered here and those outside, there are 45,000 in this stadium. Another 100,000 outside watching on the big screens.

This has been an extremely uplifting moment. Back with me, Emirati diplomat Omar Saif Ghobash, historian Peter Hellyer, and Jaber Lamki. I've just got a couple of minutes. I'll start with you, Omar. And see if we can maybe talk to the others on -- after the top of the hour. What message ultimately do you have to CNN's global audience of hundreds of millions of homes worldwide on the back of this trip?

GHOBASH: I think one of the things that we haven't really touched on is the both political and the religious courage of all of those involved. From the pope to the leadership of the -- of the Emirates, and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, who is essentially the head of these Sunni community, globally.

It's a remarkable step. And I can -- personally, I feel that there is a direct line from September 11th until today. And this is kind of an evolving story that is really, really remarkable for all of us. You know, a lot of us have lived in hope that -- you know, things can -- we can actually engage with each other and build a better Middle East and a better world for ourselves.

ANDERSON: Words Omar Saif Gobash, as we look at the final images of the Mass here in Abu Dhabi. We are going to take a short break. Back of the show, in fact, thanks for joining us. I'm Becky Anderson.

Rosemary Church and I will be back for more of our special coverage of the pope's historic visit to Abu Dhabi after this short break. Do stay with us.