The “historic visit” by Pope Francis to the UAE will highlight the country’s values of tolerance and acceptance, the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has said.
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, arrives in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night, February 3, and is in the country until February 5. His visit marks the first ever Papal visit to the GCC.
“We welcome the visit of Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, to the UAE,” Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement.
“We, as UAE leadership and people, are looking forward to this historic visit that will contribute to underpinning the values of tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and cultural exchange,” he said.
He added: “Over five decades since its establishment, the UAE has been promoting the values of tolerance, acceptance, freedom of religion, and respect for others.”
We welcome Pope Francis to the UAE. This historic visit will deepen the values of tolerance, understanding and interfaith dialogue.
We are bound by our humanity, our common values and belief in the future of humankind.
Welcome to the UAE in this, our year of tolerance .
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) February 2, 2019
Last week, the Pope also extended his greetings to the leadership and people of the UAE, describing the Emirates as a “country that is striving to be a model for co-existence, human fraternity, and meeting of faiths and civilisations.”
In a video message released by the Vatican ahead of the visit, the Pope stressed that the UAE was a “country where so many people find a safe place to live and work with freedom that respects differences.”
Pope Francis also thanked Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for the invitation to “take part in a dialogue of religions titled ‘Human Fraternity’.”
The UAE also announced last week that private sector workers who are attending the Papal mass on Tuesday, February 5, will be given the day off.
The ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said that the holiday will apply to private sector employees holding permits to participate in the mass, which will take place at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.