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Sheikh Nahyan' speech

Cardinal Parolin, Archbishop Rajic, Bishop Hinder, Bishop Ballin, Distinguished Guests, Parishioners of St. Paul’s, Ladies and Gentlemen:

This inauguration of St. Paul’s Church in Musaffah began this evening on exactly the right note—a version of the “Song of Joy” from the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The poem that Beethoven set to his stirring score is that of Friedrich Schiller. Translated from Schiller’s German, certain of the words seem especially relevant to tonight’s event.

Schiller calls Joy the “beautiful spark of divinity.” And he declares that “all men shall become brothers” wherever the “gentle wings” of Joy “hover.”

To be sure, the gentle wings of Joy hover over this inauguration. Joy brings us together as sisters and brothers committed to values cherished by all people who are sensitive to the beautiful spark of divinity. Joy is an expression of our human potential for connecting to everything and everyone around us. We do not even need to know the words of the Schiller’s song to feel that Beethoven’s monumental music is inspiring us all to become brothers and sisters—all the world around and here tonight in Musaffah.

I have long been eager to identify values that bring us together as brothers and sisters. Many such values define this global crossroads that is the United Arab Emirates. The clearest way to appreciate the virtues valued by the UAE’s global society is to examine the well-documented actions of a single person admired by all UAE people. That person is the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the leader who united our seven emirates. His moral habits rested on seven virtues understood and admired around the world. Sheikh Zayed exhibited the virtues of WISDOM, COURAGE, PRUDENCE, TEMPERANCE, LOYALTY, JUSTICE, and GENEROSITY. His vision was for the United Arab Emirates to be a beacon of tolerance and respect, a harmonious society that connects diverse people, a nation devoted to dialogue across national, cultural, and religious boundaries, and a country that seeks global understanding and peace.

A society committed to those values is the kind of society sought for the United Arab Emirates by His Highness the President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, and here in Musaffah by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces. The President has declared that the UAE [and I quote] “has relied, and will continue to rely, on the rich and diverse contributions of its true wealth, its people, to guarantee its prosperity.” Our people are our true wealth. We appreciate the diversity of talents, interests, and points of view that make our country a vibrant place to live. You who will constitute St. Paul’s congregation along with all of the other people who live and work in the United Arab Emirates bring unique identities and commitments to this cosmopolitan society. In a sense, we are all becoming global citizens—people whose scope of vision, understanding, and concern traverses national borders; people whose guiding values, like Sheikh Zayed’s, are more universal than provincial.

Our presence here tonight intensifies the UAE’s climate of respect and mutual trust. We all treasure the authentic religious spirit. We disdain its perversion. This assembly and this occasion deserve a “Song of Joy.” I congratulate you all on the handsome edifice that you have constructed for St. Paul’s in Musaffah. The United Arab Emirates is fortunate to have you here.

Thank you for allowing me to join you sisters and brothers in this marvelous inauguration of St. Paul’s Church. I commend you all for your collective efforts in making this new building a reality, as a place of worship and as a major community asset for all of you.

Best wishes and good luck in your future endeavors.

Thank you.

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