Pope Francis has landed in Abu Dhabi as part of his historic three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, the first by any pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula.
The papal plane touched down shortly before 10pm local time, soon after which the Holy Father was welcomed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and a number of children who presented him with flowers.
The visit marks an effort to boost the Vatican’s outreach to Islam. Pope Francis, who has made strengthening ties between the two largest religions a cornerstone of his papacy, is expected to have talks with the UAE’s crown prince on Monday and hold an open-air mass for 135,000 worshippers on Tuesday.
People are already waiting to board the bus to travel to Abu Dhabi for the Papal Mass tomorrow. Hundreds of faithful in Dubai have started queuing at the Safa Park bus depot pick-up location. Gates officially open at 11.15pm. Buses will head to Zayed Sports City for the Papal Mass.
“UAE today was proud to host the historic meeting of His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence Dr. Ahmad Al Tayeb. We launched the ‘Human Fraternity Award’ to create a true interfaith dialogue. The two religious symbols were honoured during the award’s first edition,” tweeted Sheikh Mohammed.
The UAE, which dubbed 2019 its Year of Tolerance, says the visit reflects its history as a “cradle of diversity”.
US Secretary of State Department, Mike Pompeo, welcomed the pope’s historic visit to the region tweeted: “The United States applauds Pontifex arrival in UAE as an historic moment for religious freedom. The first Holy Mass by a pope in the Arabian Peninsula promotes peace and understanding between two of the world’s great religions.”
The Holy Father said the Feb. 3-5 apostolic voyage will be “short but important”.