The pontiff will be in the UAE between 3 and 5 February 2019 for the first official papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula. Local Catholics welcome the announcement. The visit will provide an opportunity for an exchange with Islam. For Bishop Hinder, this is an "Important step" on the path of dialogue with the Muslim world. The UAE is stable but with a dark side.
Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) – The papal visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in early February next year, the first by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi, will be a time of joy for all believers and an opportunity for peace and exchange with Islam, said Mgr Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia (UAE, Oman and Yemen) in a note sent to AsiaNews commenting yesterday's Holy See announcement of the official visit by the Argentine pontiff.
Pope Francis will be in Abu Dhabi from 3 to 5 February 2019. His visit will be a first for the Peninsula, where, with few exceptions, there is little respect for religious freedom and the practice of faiths other than Islam.
As part of the preparations, the Vicariate set up a website dedicated to the Papal Visit to provide information and other details about the event.
Reacting to the Holy See’s announcement, Mgr Hinder calls on the faithful to welcome the Pope with "open hearts and pray with Saint Francis of Assisi: Make me a channel of your peace!"
The prelate hopes the visit will be "an important step in the dialogue between Muslims and Christians and contribute to mutual understanding" as well as stability in the Middle East.
To this end, Mgr Hinder said he would like to see “a special intercession be inserted in all obligation Masses leading up to the visit for a spiritually successful visit”.
The programme for the “very short and tightly scheduled visit will be published before Christmas". However, the prelate notes that “a public Mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi on the morning of Tuesday, 5 February 2019.”
In the meantime, he thanks “the UAE government for their generosity.” The UAE is one of the few stable countries in the Middle East. In recent years, its leaders have tried to export their model of society based on moderate Islam open to religious and cultural diversity.
However, there is a dark side to the federation, namely its involvement in the war in Yemen and support for Saudi Arabia in its clash with Qatar over the past year; all of which has heightened tensions in the region.
Domestically, repression is another issue as evinced by the conviction of dissident Ahmed Mansoor, who was given a ten-year prison sentence earlier this year.