Pope Francis to visit UAE in February

Blanche Robertson
December 7, 2018

The Vatican said the theme for the Abu Dhabi trip was summed up in the phrase "make me a channel of your peace" - a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, the pope's namesake.

The Feb. 3-5 trip to Abu Dhabi centers around an interfaith meeting, the Vatican said Thursday. "We look forward to a historic visit, through which we will seek dialogue on the peaceful coexistence among peoples".

In the past, Pope Francis visited Arabic-speaking countries such as Lebanon and Egypt.

Dubai's leader said the visit "will strengthen our ties and understanding of each other, enhance interfaith dialogue and help us to work together to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world".

The Vatican press office said the trip had been at the invitation of the Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, as well as the Catholic Church in the country.

"The generosity of the UAE government has also been extended in making it possible to celebrate a Mass, which will be on February 5 at a public venue in Abu Dhabi".

But it comes after years of expectation of a papal visit in view of the Gulf's large and burgeoning immigrant population, many of whom are Catholics from India, East Asia, North America and Europe.

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Almost 80 per cent of the population of the UAE is Muslim, while Christians constitute around nine per cent, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Bishop Paul Hinder of the Arabian Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which comprises the UAE, Oman and Yemen, expressed his "gratitude" to the UAE government for inviting the Pope.

The hope was the visit would "spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of good will", it said. "These are warm and kind gestures that we appreciate and acknowledge".

The theme of the UAE trip is peace, with the logo featuring a dove carrying an olive branch.

Crown Prince Mohammed said in a tweet that the pope "is a symbol of peace, tolerance and the promotion of brotherhood". Pope Paul VI visited Iran in 1970.

The pope's trip to the UAE will come ahead of a visit in March to Morocco.

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