“Pope Francis’ visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the first visit of a Pope, is a key moment for dialogue between Muslims and Christians,” Fides News Agency was told by Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of southern Arabia, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen.
“We will welcome the Pope with open hearts and with the words of Saint Francis of Assisi we pray: Lord make us a channel of your peace. We hope the apostolic visit will be an important step in the path of dialogue between Muslims and Christians and that it will further reciprocal understanding and peace in the Middle East,” said Bishop Hinder.
On December 6, 2018, the Holy See announced that the Pope will make a three-day journey in the United Arab Emirates from February 3-5, 2019. The visit is an affirmative response to the invitation from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince Abu Dhabi and vice commander of the armed forces of the Emirates, to take part in an interreligious dialogue “Human Brotherhood”. Announcing the Papal visit, Crown Prince Mohammed said in a tweet “the Pope is a symbol of peace, tolerance, and promotion of brotherhood. We look forward to this history-making visit through which we hope to further dialogue and peaceful coexistence among all peoples”.
The visit, we are told by the Apostolic Vicar is also an answer to an invitation to Pope Francis from the small Catholic community that lives in the United Arab Emirates. Bishop Hinder expressed gratitude to the government of the United Arab Emirates and said that a special commission had been created to keep close contact with the government to organize every aspect of the Papal pilgrimage.
There will be a celebration of Mass on February 5 at a public place in Abu Dhabi. “a courteous gesture that we acknowledge and appreciate “, said the Vicar Apostolic, referring to the government.
This visit will be the first ever Papal pilgrimage to the Arabian peninsula. The theme chosen by the Vicar Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia is taken from the prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me a channel of your peace”. The visit falls in the year in which we will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the meeting Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik Al-Kamil, which took place in Egypt in 1219.