Tuesday February 5 has been declared a holiday for private sector employees holding permits to participate in the Papal Mass that will take place in Abu Dhabi during Pope Francis’s visit to the UAE.
The announcement was made by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation on Wednesday and underlines the UAE’s ongoing dedication to facilitating interfaith dialogue which also coincides with the Year of Tolerance, state news agency WAM reported.
The visit of Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, to the UAE is at the invitation of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The landmark visit marks the first time a Pontiff has visited the GCC, and will coincide with a visit of The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority in Sunni Islamic thought and Islamic jurisprudence.
The visit from February 3-5 incorporates a series of high-profile events in Abu Dhabi, which will provide a backdrop for the two religious leaders to discuss the promotion of human fraternity and world peace.
Key events will include a Papal Mass at the Zayed Stadium on February 5, which is expected to attract an estimated 135,000 people from the UAE and neighbouring countries – one of the largest single gatherings ever held in the UAE.
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam will also meet the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan for bilateral meetings and discussions.
They will also visit together the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Zayed’s tomb and the Pontiff will also meet with the Muslim Council of Elders.
On February 4, Abu Dhabi will also play host to the Human Fraternity Meeting that will be attended by religious leaders from around the world.
The visit by Pope Francis follows last year’s visit by the country’s first Minister of Tolerance Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi, to the Vatican, where she was received by Pope Francis and met with the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The UAE has a long history of inter-faith dialogue and freedom of religious expression and the first Catholic Church in the country was established in Abu Dhabi in 1965.
Archeologists have also found remains of a church and monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island dating back to the 7th century.
Today there are a total of 76 churches and other places of worship in the UAE and the government has also donated land for the development of new places of worship within the country.
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