United Arab Emirates prides itself for its religious tolerance and diversity and has declared 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’. UAE President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan emphasised the significance and need for tolerance, which he feels is required even more today to preserve UAE’s diverse society. He said, “The world today needs universal human values to be promoted for the sake of future generations.” UAE has planned a progressive start to its ‘Year of Tolerance’ with Pope Francis landmark three-day visit which would take place from February 3 to 5. It would be the first time a Pope would visit Arabian Peninsula.
The crown prince of UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan made the news of his Holiness official. He invited Pope Francis to the Arab nation during his visit to the Vatican in 2016. Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan said that Pope Francis 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.”
Pontiff’s three-day schedule would comprise meeting UAE dignitaries and crown prince on day 1 i.e. February 3, followed by his visit to Grand Mosque, and International Interfaith Meeting, on February 4 and Holy Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium on February 5. International Interfaith Meeting is believed to be Pope’s main reason behind visiting the Arab nation.
The nation, whose 10% of the population is Christian Catholic, is looking forward to the Papal Mass as the masses would get a chance to catch the glimpse of Holy Father. The mass is said to be held in Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi and is estimated to be attended by 120,000. The event would also be live streamed and broadcasted in churches across country, on the papal visit website and the Vatican’s YouTube channel.
As is UAE awaiting the monumental visit, so is Vatican looking forward to it, The Vatican said the visit would “spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of good will.”
The Pope is known for working towards promoting inter-religious bond, especially between Christianity and Islam. The Bishop of Rome, who turns 82 on December 17, has already travelled to several Muslim countries, including Turkey in 2014, Azerbaijan in 2016, Egypt in 2017 and is anticipated to visit Morocco in March.
It is said that the Pope’s visit would strengthen ties between inter-religious communities and better their understanding of each other.