The House is an interfaith center located in the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE): it was officially inaugurated on Thursday, February 16, 2023 by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Interior, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence.
The center houses a church, dedicated to Pope Francis; a mosque, dedicated to Ahmed El-Tayeb; and a synagogue, dedicated to Moses Maimonides (1138-1204), a rabbinical authority of the Middle Ages. The inauguration was followed on Friday by the Islamic prayer, on Saturday by the celebration of the Jewish Sabbath, and on Sunday by the Catholic Mass.
Located on Saadiyat Island, the House was originally scheduled to open in 2022, but construction took longer than expected. The Abrahamic Family House stems from the signing of the “Document on Human Fraternity” by Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Imam of al-Azhar, with the aim of promoting coexistence between peoples and fighting against extremism.
The structure is the work of Sir David Adjaye and was designed to foster solidarity and encounter, while preserving the distinctive character of each of the three religions with their common descent from Abraham.
The activities of the House are supervised by a High Committee of Human Fraternity, which devoted its first efforts to this structure. Asked by the Times of Israel, the committee's Jewish representative, Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, a senior member of the Jewish Congregation of Washington, spoke of a “significant opportunity” for those who “believe in the power of faith and humanity.”
From Abu Dhabi to Assisi
Dealing with the Abrahamic Family House project, in Corrispondenza romana of November 20, 2019, the historian Cristina Siccardi shows the deep roots of the current crisis: “We must not think that the interreligious citadel is an original and avant-garde idea of Pope Francis’ pontificate.”
“It comes from the 'spirit of Assisi' – which was not, is not and never can be the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi – in 1986, when John Paul II brought together all the most important representatives of the religions of the world to pray, in human fraternity, for peace in the world.”
“But this 'spirit of Assisi' has its roots in the Second Vatican Council, as evidenced by the document Nostra Ætate (October 28, 1965), which opened interreligious dialogue, nullifying the Church's pedagogical mission to condemn religious errors: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.”
“She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men” (NA, 2).
“Liberalism has led the Church of men to religious freedom; religious freedom led it to ecumenism and interreligious goodwill, clouding the issues according to a secular criterion: no religion possesses the Truth, but all are bearers of plural truths which can lead, with human fraternity, to world peace.”
“The ‘spirit of Assisi’ today creates the Abrahamic Family House, but this ‘spirit of Abu Dhabi’ has the merit of drawing a bright line between those who choose to belong exclusively to the living Christ, real and eternal in His humanity and His divinity, and those who, instead, choose the gods (whether of religious and/or secular origin) impostors, diabolical, and unreal.”