Pope Francis, during his return flight from his second Apostolic Visit to the UAE, on 3rd-5th February, said that his journey was a "big experience".

While during his on-board press conference, he initially greeted the journalists and thanked them for accompanying him on the trip.

When asked about the outcome of the trip, and his impressions of the United Arab Emirates, the Head of the Catholic Church said, "I saw a modern country. I was impressed by the city, of its cleanliness."

"Small curiosities how do they water the flowers in the desert?" he continued, adding that he saw a modern nation that welcomes many different people, and looks to the future.

The Pope said he was impressed by the future-focused objectives of the UAE, especially in education, adding that children are taught "to look to the future, always."

He also said that he felt "a great welcome" during the reception at the Presidential Palace.

Being a man of the sciences, the Pope added that he was "touched" that the UAE is focusing on sustainable solutions for water security. "In the near future, they will try to make seawater drinkable they are doing the same with water from humidity," he continued, adding that the country is "always looking into new things" for its future development.

The Pontiff went on to say that the country was open and not closed, and that the same applies to Islam, both "open to dialogue, to fraternity and peace."

He emphasised the vocation of peace, adding that, despite conflicts in the region, he was moved by his meeting with the Muslim Council of Elders and the inter-religious meeting at the Founder's Memorial, which signified a true openness to regional and universal dialogue.

Commenting on the Abu Dhabi Declaration for Human Fraternity, Pope Francis said that it was prepared through "a lot of reflection and prayer."

"Both the Grand Imam and myself, we prayed a lot," to be able to produce this document, he added.

Noting why the Human Fraternity Document came about now, the Pontiff explained, "There is only one great danger in this moment in time: Destruction, war, and hatred between us [as human beings], and if we, as believers, are not able to extend each other a hand, and hug each other, then our faith will be defeated."

"This document," he stressed, "is born out of the faith of God, who is the father to all, the father of peace," condemning all destruction and terrorism.

When asked on Yemen, following his global appeal to assist the peace process during noon prayers on Sunday, the Pope said, "I know it is difficult to give an opinion in two days, and having spoken on the subject with a few people, I can say that I found goodwill for starting the peace process."

Commenting on his critics, who feel that he may be partial to being "manipulated by Muslims", Pope Francis noted, "Not only by Muslims! The accuse me of being manipulated by everyone, even by journalists. It goes with the work!"

"But I want to say one thing clearly," he stressed, "from the Catholic Church's point of view, the document doesn't move one millimeter from the Second Vatican Council, which has also been quoted several times within the document."

The Holy Father told the press that some critics may see the signing of the document as a step backwards. However, he pointed out, "it's a step forward."

"The document itself, it's more about unity, about friendship, this is what it underlines. But now that I also think about it, the document is condemnatory, it is condemnatory of violence," he explained.

The Pontiff went on to recall an Iraqi Muslim man losing his Christian wife to the terrorism of Daesh, noting that it is stories like these that make the Abu Dhabi Declaration for Human Fraternity of vital importance. "This is why the document is strongly condemnatory in that sense."

Approached about the Papal Mass, the Pope was asked about his reaction to the young girl that ran towards him during the popemobile's rounds at Sheikh Zayed Stadium. "She was courageous I said no let her come that girl has a future I dare say: 'poor husband!'.

At the end of the press conference, Pope Francis congratulated a journalist on board, Valentina Alazraki Crastich, for her 150th papal flight. The Pope then bid farewell to the journalists by asking them to pray for him.

Source: Emirates News Agency