Pope Francis will meet with the Muslim Council of Elders and conduct a large-scale open air mass for 43,000 people in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City during his three-day visit to the UAE in February, according to an itinerary released by the Vatican’s press office.
According to the itinerary, the Pope will begin his visit on February 3 with an official welcome ceremony at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport.
The following day, he will meet with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, before holding a private meeting with the Muslim Council of Elders in Abu Dhabi’s Grad Mosque. The day will end with an “inter-religious meeting” at the Founders Memorial.
The last day of the visit, February 5, will begin with a private visit to Abu Dhabi’s St. Joseph Cathedral, before the public mass. Pope Francis will depart for Rome in the early afternoon following a farewell ceremony at the airport.
In an interview with the US-based National Catholic Register, Bishop Paul Hinder, in charge of the apostolic vicariate of Southern Arabia, said he hopes that the meeting – which is being held under the theme of ‘human fraternity – will be “an important step in the dialogue between Muslims and Christians and contribute to mutual understanding and peace-making in the Middle East.
Additionally, Hinder praised the UAE as a place in which people of different faiths can live in harmony with one another.
“We already enjoy religious tolerance in the UAE and have been given place of worship and we are grateful for this and thank the UAE government for this kindness,” he said. “The government has always supported and understood that the growth and need for new churches comes from the influx of migrant workers, who constitute a large number of the UAE population.
There are currently eight Catholic churches in the UAE, with a ninth under construction in Abu Dhabi’s western region. Additionally, there are four in neighbouring Oman.
Sunday, 3 February
Rome - Abu Dhabi
13:00 Departure from Roma/Fiumicino Airport for Abu Dhabi
22:00 Arrival at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport Abu Dhabi - official welcome
Monday, 4 February
12:00 Welcome ceremony - Main entrance of the Presidential Palace
12:20 Official visit to the Crown Prince Presidential Palace
17:00 Private meeting with the members of the Muslim Council of Elders - The Grand Mosque of Sheikh Zayed
18:10 Inter-religious meeting The Founder's Memorial
Tuesday, 5 February
Abu Dhabi - Rome
09:15 Private visit to the cathedral - St. Joseph's Cathedral, Abu Dhabi
10:30 Holy Mass - Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi
12:40 Farewell ceremony - Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport
13:00 Departure for Rome Abu Dhabi
17:00 Arrival at Roma/Ciampino International Airport Rome
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