Pope Francis in historic Arabian Peninsula visit - VIDEO

07:35 PM | 1 Feb, 2019
Pope Francis in historic Arabian Peninsula visit - VIDEO
DUBAI – Pope Francis is set for a historic trip to the UAE, the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, as he seeks to boost the Vatican's outreach to Islam.

The Argentine pontiff's trip to the United Arab Emirates "couldn't have come at a better time", said Bishop Paul Hinder of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia - which encompasses the UAE, Oman and Yemen.

"With advanced communication tools at everyone's disposal, we are better informed, and this can be put into a broader perspective when we couple it with dialogue," he told AFP.

Pope Francis, who has made strengthening ties between the two largest religions a cornerstone of his papacy, will head to Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

During his three-day visit, the pope will take part in an interfaith conference and meet Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious seat of learning.

While Hinder said there were no plans "at the moment" for a papal visit to other Gulf countries, the pope's trip to the UAE is widely seen as a stepping stone to broader interreligious dialogue in the region.

Program details

The Pope will depart from Rome on Sunday, February 3rd at 1pm (Rome time) and is scheduled to arrive at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport at 10pm (local time).

The program starts on Monday February 4th at 12 noon with the welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace, followed by the official visit to the Crown Prince. At 5pm in the evening, the Pope will meet privately with members of the Muslim Council of Elders in the Grand Mosque of Sheikh Zayed. From there, around 6pm, Pope Francis will proceed to the Founder’s Memorial where he will speak at the interreligious meeting.

On Tuesday February 5th at 9.15am, Pope Francis will visit the Cathedral of Abu Dhabi and at 10.30am he will celebrate Mass in the Zayed Sports City.

After Mass, the Pope will proceed directly to Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport where the farewell ceremony will take place. The papal plane is scheduled to depart at 1pm (local time) and will arrive at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 5pm in the evening.

'Peace and love'

The UAE - which has made no secret of its focus on soft power - prides itself on its religious tolerance and cultural diversity.

It has been criticised by human rights groups for its involvement in a bloody Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

It was also criticised for upholding a 10-year prison term against human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor on December 31 - two weeks after the UAE declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who invited the pope to the UAE, on Thursday described the pontiff as "the man of peace and love".

"We are hopeful that generations to come will prosper in peace and security," he said in a tweet anticipating the meeting between the pontiff and Sheikh Ahmed.

In a video message to the Emirati people on Thursday, Pope Francis said: "I am happy ... to write on your dear land a new page in the relations between religions, confirming that we are brothers although different."

On the last day of his trip, Pope Francis will lead a mass in Abu Dhabi to be attended by more than 130,000 people - the largest gathering ever in the UAE, according to local media.

'Second chance'

Catholics attending the open-air mass queued for hours at St Mary's Catholic Church in Dubai on Wednesday to collect their tickets.

Parishes across the country were allocated a certain number of passes with St Mary's Catholic Church receiving 41,000 tickets, according to priest Lennie Connully.

He said more than 50,000 members of the congregation had asked to attend the historic mass at Zayed Sports City stadium, adding: "We are still trying to give to all... because there may be extras in other parishes."

More than 2,000 buses will be transporting worshippers from across the country to Abu Dhabi, with most departing in the early hours of Tuesday morning - way ahead of mass that is scheduled for 10:30 am (0630 GMT).

For Filipina Mylene Lao Estipona, 43, a cancer survivor, the time-consuming journey to see Pope Francis is a small price to pay for a life-long dream.

She said her faith gave her a "second chance" at life and the strength to beat cancer.

"I thank God that I have a ticket. I really prayed, and it's an answered prayer," said the dental hygienist, who has been living in the UAE for 13 years.

'People's pope'

The UAE has the largest number of Catholic churches in the region with eight. Oman, Kuwait and Yemen each have four, while Qatar and Bahrain have one each.

Gulf kingpin Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim places of worship.

Nearly 80 percent of the population of the UAE is Muslim, while Christians constitute around nine percent, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The UAE authorities control all religious activities and suppress any group that uses religion for political ends.

"We do not want the pulpits to become a platform for disseminating hate and extremism and instigating violence, as we have seen in many countries, including in Europe," a UAE official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

According to Hinder, nearly one million Catholics live in the emirates, the majority from the Philippines and India.

Pope Francis, who made history when he was named the first Latin American pontiff in 2013, is known as the "people's pope", listening to and warmly embracing people from different walks of life.

"Latin culture is an exuberant culture, an outgoing culture, quite different from European culture," Connully said.

Daily Pakistan Global Web Desk


Pakistani Rupee exchange rate to US Dollar, Euro, Pound, Dirham, and Riyal - 20 May 2024

Pakistani currency rates against US Dollar and other currencies on May 20, 2024 (Monday) in open market.

USD to PKR rate today

US dollar was being quoted at 277.4 for buying and 280.35 for selling.

Euro stands at 297 for buying and 299.5 for selling while British Pound rate is 348.5 for buying, and 352 for selling.

UAE Dirham AED was at 75.25 and Saudi Riyal came down to 73.50.

Today’s currency exchange rates in Pakistan - 20 May 2024

Currency Symbol Buying Selling
US Dollar USD 277.4 280.35
Euro EUR 297 299.5
UK Pound Sterling GBP 348.5 352
U.A.E Dirham AED 75.25 76
Saudi Riyal SAR 73.5 74.25
Australian Dollar AUD 181 183
Bahrain Dinar BHD 747.77 755.77
Canadian Dollar CAD 203 205
China Yuan CNY 38.49 38.89
Danish Krone DKK 40.25 40.65
Hong Kong Dollar HKD 35.96 36.31
Indian Rupee INR 3.33 3.44
Japanese Yen JPY 1.91 1.99
Kuwaiti Dinar KWD 913.28 922.28
Malaysian Ringgit MYR 58.69 59.29
New Zealand Dollar NZD 169.45 171.45
Norwegian Krone NOK 25.67 25.97
Omani Riyal OMR 730.59 738.59
Qatari Riyal QAR 76.41 77.11
Singapore Dollar SGD 203 205
Swedish Korona SEK 25.67 25.97
Swiss Franc CHF 309.01 311.51
Thai Baht THB 7.57 7.72


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