Pope Francis to Make Historic Arabian Visit in February
By Mei Manuel, December 07, 2018 15:12 PM
On Thursday, the Vatican reported that Pope Francis will be travelling to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in February, making him the first ever pope to visit the Arabian peninsula.
The trip - scheduled on February 3 to 5 - will center around inter-religious peace.
According to the Vatican, the pope accepted the invitation from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and the Catholic community there to visit. He will be attending an inter-faith meeting as part of the trip.
The Roman Catholic community rejoiced upon this news and in a statement, the head of the Roman Catholic Arabian Vicariate of Southern Arabia, Bishop Paul Hinder, thanking the UAE government for allowing the pope to visit and "to celebrate a Mass at a public venue in Abu Dhabi."
Just like in other Muslim nations, practicing Christianity is not very open in the Gulf states and religious freedom varies per country.
In the UAE and Kuwait, for instance, Christians can worship in churches and places with special licenses. In Saudi Arabia, the home to Islam's holiest sites, people are not allowed to practice other fates.
Hinder shares that the Papal mass is scheduled on February 5th.
The pope has visited several Muslim countries in the past - which includes Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan and the Palestinian territories and used these trips to call for inter-religious dialogue and to condemn the notion of violence in the name of God.
"The theme of the visit is 'Make Me a Channel of Your Peace' - and that's the pope's intention in going to the United Arab Emirates. How all people of goodwill can work for peace will be a major topic on this trip," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said. The theme was inspired by the opening lines from St. Francis of Assisi's Prayer of Peace.
"This visit, like the one to Egypt, (2017) shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to inter-religious dialogue. Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter," Burke said.
Crown Prince Mohammed have also spoken about the incoming visit of the pope in his tweet and said that the pope "is a symbol of peace, tolerance and the promotion of brotherhood. We look forward to a historic visit, through which we will seek dialogue on the peaceful coexistence among peoples."
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