Pope Francis speaks of religion as a uniting force

During his visit to Abu Dhabi on February 4, Pope Francis asked, “How, in short, can religions be channels of fraternity rather than barriers of separation?”

In a historic first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the pontiff’s message was one of peace and unity among people of all religions. “I am visiting that Country as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together, and to travel paths of peace,” he tweeted before leaving for the United Arab Emirates.

Religious freedom, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, makes American society one in which people of many religions live, work and worship side-by-side with mutual respect. These photos offer glimpses of religious life in the United States:

Two people preparing feast on floor mat (© Kholood Eid/Reuters)
(© Kholood Eid/Reuters)

Although the United States is predominantly Christian, members of many non-Christian faiths practice freely, like the Muslims above preparing the traditional Eid meal at the end of Ramadan.


People leaving church greeting priest on stairs outside (© RosaIreneBetancourt 7/Alamy Stock Photo)
(© RosaIreneBetancourt 7/Alamy Stock Photo)

Christian churches adapt services to the needs of their congregations. Masses are said in Spanish and English at Saint Francis de Sales Catholic church in Miami, pictured above.


Woman pointing to Hebrew poster in front of students (© Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)
(© Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Education benefits from religious freedom. High-quality schools and colleges have been founded by religious groups. Above, Jewish students learn Hebrew at Ilan Ramon Day School in Agoura, California.


People clearing debris from large pile (© Julie Denesha/Getty Images)
(© Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

Working together for the common good, often through interfaith action, is typical of churches, mosques and synagogues in the United States. Mormons from Kansas, shown here, help clean up after a devastating 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri.


Row of people by large cross at sunrise (© Jessia Renaldi/Boston Globe/Getty Images)
(© Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe/Getty Images)

Often holiday celebrations, such as this Easter Sunday sunrise service, are shared with friends and neighbors regardless of religion, deepening appreciation among Americans of different faiths.