Pope Francis to make landmark February 3-5 visit in the UAE

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Pope Francis to make landmark February 3-5 visit in the UAE

By Iacopo Scaramuzzi/ lastampa.it

Pope Francis will travel to the United Arab Emirates from 3 to 5 February to participate in an international interreligious meeting in Abu Dhabi. He is the first Pontiff to make a trip to the nation of the Arab peninsula.

“Accepting the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, hereditary prince of Abu Dhabi,” Greg Burke, director of the Vatican Press Office, said “His Holiness Pope Francis will visit Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) from February 3-5, 2019, to participate in the International Interreligious Meeting on “Human Fraternity”. The visit also takes place in response to the invitation of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates.

The motto of the visit, Burke added, is “Make me a channel for your peace” and “ with this intention, the Pope will go to the United Arab Emirates. The way people of good will can work for peace will be a central theme of this trip. The visit, like the one to Egypt, shows the fundamental importance that the Holy Father attaches to inter-religious dialogue. Pope Francis’ visits to the Arab world are a perfect example of an encounter between cultures”.

About 900,000 Catholics live in the United Arab Emirates: the community is made of immigrant workers coming for the most part from other Asian countries, beginning with the Philippines and India.

In September 2016, the Pope received in the Vatican the Crown Prince who expressed his appreciation for the Pontiff’s words against intolerance and poverty, assuring him of his commitment to peace, security and development in the world.

“We welcome the news of Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates next February”, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice-president and governor of Dubai, commented on Twitter, adding that “the visit will strengthen our ties of mutual understanding, strengthen inter-faith dialogue and help us work together to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world”.

The official invitation, reports the Emirate newspaper The Nation, was brought in person to the Pope last June by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. The Holy See and the United Arab Emirates have had diplomatic relations since 2007 and in 2010 the Arab country appointed its first ambassador, Ms Hissa Al Otaiba, who is still in office.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was in June 2015 in Abu Dhabi to inaugurate the second Catholic Church in the country, after the opening of the Church of Saint Joseph in 1965, dedicated to Saint Paul. The Minister of Culture Nahyan bin Mubarak was present for the occasion, who in his speech - Fides agency reported - stressed how the opening of a new church highlighted the “religious tolerance” of national leaders.

In the homily of the inaugural Mass--concelebrated also by Monsignor Hinder and Bishop Camillo Ballin Mccj, Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabi--Cardinal Parolin also recalled “the benevolence of past and present rulers, for their generosity in providing land for the construction of new churches in the country”. The permission granted by the local authorities to build new places of worship - added the Vatican Secretary of State - is “a concrete sign of the hospitality that the society of the Emirates has shown towards Christians”, and testifies to their commitment in favor of “a society founded on coexistence and mutual respect”.

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 15:34
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