DUBAI 3 February 2019: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has welcomed the visit to the United Arab Emirates by Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, beginning today.
“We welcome the visit of Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, to the UAE. We, as UAE leadership and people, are looking forward to this historic visit that will contribute to underpinning the values of tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and cultural exchange,” said Sheikh Mohammed.
“Over five decades since its establishment, the UAE has been promoting the values of tolerance, acceptance, freedom of religion, and respect for others,” His Highness added.
‘Pope Francis, we love you’: Papal Mass attendees
As the UAE prepares for the historic moment of the arrival today of Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, thousands of Catholics residents in the Emirates do not want miss out the Holy Mass.
Fifty four years after the first Catholic church was built in the UAE, the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi is ready to welcome more than 135,000 people from the UAE and overseas to attend the Holy Mass on Tuesday 5th February, a milestone event that both promotes the values of tolerance and co-existence and also signifies the depth of relations between the UAE and the Vatican.
Hundreds of people turned up at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi and queued to receive their tickets for the Holy Mass. Several spoke to the Emirates News Agency, WAM, about their excitement to see the Pope, while others described it as a moment of “privilege”.
“Even though it is a long queue to get the tickets, we are very excited about it It’s a big blessing,” said Daniel Guillory from the U.S.
Clarivin Guillory added, “I saw Pope John Paul II in the Philippines in 1981. It is a privilege to see Pope Francis this time.”
The Papal Mass is the Solemn Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the Pope, and for many of the estimated one-million Catholics living in the UAE, attending the mass is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Joyce, a Filipina, is one of them.
“I finally got the ticket and I feel excited and blessed as I am going to see the Pope for the first time,” she said.
Indian citizens Sebastian Thornton and Cerilla Sebastian were also among the queue, and expressed their thanks for this “brilliant” opportunity to start the ‘Year of Tolerance’.
“We are extremely grateful to the leadership and government of the UAE. What a brilliant way to begin the Year of Tolerance in the UAE with the visit of the Pope,” they said.
“We have more than 200 nationalities living in this country and everybody is co-existing in peace and harmony.”
It will be the first-ever visit by a Catholic Pope to the Arabian peninsula.
Commenting on that, Charles Pintu, also from India, said, “It is an honour to have the Pope visiting this country, this region, in Abu Dhabi. I thank all who made this possible. I hope his visit will be a success.”
Also very happy to get the opportunity to see the Pope, May Joy, a young Lebanese girl, said, “I love him so such and my only question to him: Do you love us as much as we love you?”
The same joy was expressed by Anthony, a young Lebanese-Canadian who sent a message to the Pope saying, “I’m very excited because the Pope is coming to the UAE, and we love him, we all do.”
Make me a Channel of Your Peace
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb will visit the UAE from 3rd-5th February. They will both be received officially on 4th February by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The Pope’s visit will take place under the theme ‘Make me a Channel of Your Peace’, which is seen as an invitation for peaceful dialogue and cooperation.