"The visit of Pope Francis next week is not the culmination of a journey, but a highlight along the path that the UAE has taken from its inception," according to Mary Corrado, an American expatriate resident of 40 years standing.
The Pope’s Apostolic Visit, from 3rd-5th February, is taking place early in the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, which has been designated as the theme of the year by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. His visit will coincide with one by the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb.
"I welcome the visit of Pope Francis as the UAE strives to set an example to the world of how a society can live in harmony," she says.
"When I came to the UAE in 1977, I received a warm and friendly welcome. The Emirati friends I have known and know have set the tone in this society for acceptance and a spirit of togetherness, no matter who you are or where you come from," she told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.
"As a result, this has led to a global culture accepting all ethnicities, languages religions and beliefs. The establishment of a Ministry of Tolerance is a natural extension of the UAE’s commitment to making the world a better place for all, promoting human dignity and well being for all."
Corrado, who is the Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, adds "This spirit of tolerance has attracted me to the Make-A-Wish Foundation where we grant wishes to any child living in the UAE who has a life-threatening condition."
The Foundation was established in 2003 under the patronage of Sheikha Sheikha bint Mohammed bint Saif Al Nahyan and is associated with a network that spans 50 countries around the world.
The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, has been the seat of the Catholic Church’s Apostolic Vicariate of South Arabia since the 1970s, while the first Catholic church in the country opened in the 1960s. Official diplomatic relations between the UAE and the Vatican started in 2007.