The Vatican press has reported that Pope Francis, the leader of the Christian faith has accepted an invitation to the UAE capital, February 3 to 5, from His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. This visit will make history as this will be the first time a pope visits the region, told His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, stressed how the “invite would build stronger ties of friendship and cooperation between the UAE and the Vatican;” the two countries have established diplomatic ties with the Holy See since 2007, and the UAE government and people look forward to the Pontiff’s two-day apostolic journey.
His Holiness Pope Francis’ (a symbol of peace, tolerance and the promotion of brotherhood) main reason for going to the UAE is to attend an interfaith meeting, on ‘Human Fraternity,’ the Vatican said. Also, it aims to establish dialogue “to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world,” tweeted Mohammad Bin Zayed .
Furthermore, according to Shaikh Abdullah, the visit will reinforce UAE’s “efforts aimed at achieving interaction among all religions and promoting values of tolerance, love and peace.” The concept was also remarked in a statement by Greg Burke, the Director of the Holy See Press Office featured in Vatican News: Pope Francis visiting the Arab world “is a perfect example of the culture of encounter.”
The Christian religion is definitely present in the UAE, where actually seven Catholic churches are in the country. Pope Francis visiting Abu Dhabi benefits the community of natives and expatriates living in the UAE that, although Islam is the largest and the official state religion, are professing a different faith. Arrangements have been made for the Roman Catholic community living in the UAE to see the Pope and attend public mass by the Pontiff that will take place on February 5 in Abu Dhabi.
As stated in the media, Francis, “the people’s Pope,” is focused on sharing “the love of Christ,” thus reaffirming the Church’s traditional teachings, in a country where both Christians and non-Christians have been welcomed. The Pope is keen to explain that he’s preoccupied with the religious tensions existing in the Middle East. And the timing of the Pope’s visit is important to establish a culture of tolerance, coherence and coexistence between sects and religions. The Pope is also looking forward to stressing the importance he gives to inter-religious dialogue as a means to contributing to mutual understanding and peace-making in the region of the Middle East, tells Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, Bishop Paul Hinder.