Pope Francis reached Abu Dhabi on Sunday at 9.50 pm, where he was greeted by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Cabinet ministers and guard of honour. UAE has planned a progressive start to its ‘Year of Tolerance’ with Pope Francis’ landmark three-day visit which is Pope’s first visit to the Arabian Peninsula. The crown prince invited Pope Francis to the Arab nation during his visit to the Vatican in 2016.
On Thursday, the Pope shared a video message on religious tolerance: “Faith in God unites and does not divide, it draws us closer despite differences, it distances us from hostilities and aversion.”
Before boarding his plane from the Vatican to UAE, he also raised a call to help victims of the Yemen crisis, one of the greatest humanitarian crises. The UAE is said to be deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in the Arab world’s poorest country.
In his Sunday noontime message, he said, “The people are exhausted by the long conflict and many children are hungry, but humanitarian aid isn’t accessible. The cries of these children and their parents rise up” to God.
Aid groups working in Yemen hope that Holy Father’s visit might bring to light the urgency to halt the crisis in Yemen in front of the Emirati leadership.
The Pontiff’s three-day schedule comprises meeting UAE dignitaries and the crown prince on day 1 i.e. February 3, followed by his visit to Grand Mosque, and International Interfaith Meeting, on February 4 and Holy Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium on February 5. The International Interfaith Meeting is believed to be Pope’s main reason behind visiting the Arab nation.
He called the UAE as “a land that is trying to be a model of coexistence, of human brotherhood, and a meeting place among diverse civilizations and cultures”
The nation, 10% of whose population is Christian Catholic, is looking forward to the Papal Mass as people would get a chance to catch the glimpse of Holy Father.
One of Vatican officials told UAE’s Catholic community of UAE that they are really stretched, and they need more churches and more priests in the Arabian nation.
Some believe that Pope’s visit to UAE, might ease regulations with regard to building churches in the region, particularly in neighboring Saudi Arabia where non-Muslim places of worship are forbidden.