The UAE is preparing for a landmark visit by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church next month, when he will also meet with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb.
The visit marks the first time a Pontiff has visited the GCC, and is the first time any Papal visit has coincided with a visit by the Grand Imam.
It comes both the religious leaders accepted the invitation of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to visit the country.
The Human Fraternity Meeting, from February 3rd-5th, will include a series of high-profile events in Abu Dhabi, during which the two religious leaders will discuss the promotion of world peace.
On February 4, the Human Fraternity Meeting in Abi Dhabi will be attended by religious leaders from around the world.
A Papal Mass at the Zayed Stadium on February 5 is expected to attract an estimated 135,000 people from the UAE and neighbouring countries and is one of the largest single gatherings ever held in the UAE.
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam will also meet Sheikh Mohamed and together visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Zayed’s tomb.
The Pontiff will also meet with the Muslim Council of Elders.
The event is part of the UAE’s efforts to promote the principles of tolerance and humanitarianism, and the peaceful coexistence of all people and religions.
The joint visit by the religious leaders comes even as the UAE observes 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, to further strengthen the nation’s role of encouraging stability and prosperity in the region.
It follows the Year of Zayed in 2018 and the Year of Giving in 2017.
Last year, the UAE’s first Minister of Tolerance Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi visited the Vatican, where she was received by Pope Francis and met with the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The first Catholic church in the UAE was established in Abu Dhabi in 1965. Today there are a total of 76 churches and other places of worship in the country, and the government has also donated land for the development of new places of worship, including a temple.