Thousands of Catholic faithful, including Filipino workers from across all the emirates, came together to witness the historic visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, during a celebration of a Papal Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium today.
The Filipino Times newspaper reported that the Mass saw a 120-member choir, composed mostly of Filipinos, with Filipina conductress Joy Santos spearheading the multi-cultural voices who sang hymns in English, Arabic, and Latin.
Over one million Catholics reside across the UAE and 180,000 people had the rare opportunity to attend one of the few Papal Masses to take place outside Vatican City, but also the first-ever in the history of the region.
"Many Filipinos had camped out the night before at hotels and locations near access hubs. Ecstatic and filled with eagerness to meet the Pope, they made sure they got to the venue early, as the first batch of buses left as early as 10:00 p.m. Monday night to head towards the venue," the UAE's largest Filipino newspaper and biggest digital platform for Filipinos in the region stated.
The visit of the Pontiff is a positive response to the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, together with His Eminence Dr. Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, who welcomed the Pope as he arrived from the Vatican.
The Pope is expected to leave the UAE around 1:00 p.m. following a farewell ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Presidential Flight.
Catholics gather at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, sing Hymns with joy-filled hearts
On the third and final day of the Papal Visit, the sun shines over a 180,000 strong crowd where the atmosphere is filled with excitement, joy, and belief in the humanity of the world.
Today, for the first time in the UAE, and the Arabian Peninsula, the Head of the Catholic Church will deliver a Homily, bringing together the Catholic community in the country for moments of peace and reflection.
The worshipers gathered at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, some lining up since 1:00 am to enter, preparing to see the Pontiff deliver the Holy Mass on UAE grounds.
Religious and cultural diversity is an integral part of the UAE’s civilisation and heritage, with archaeological excavations unearthing churches dating back to the 7th century AD.
The first Catholic church was established in 1965, six years before the formation of the UAE. Today, nearly one million Catholics reside here.
On this whirlwind trip, Pope Francis came, along with his fellow religious leader His Eminence Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, to send a message of peace, tolerance, and fraternity, not only for the region, but globally.
The Pope’s visit, following an invitation by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will draw attention to the global role of the UAE as an international leader in promoting religious coexistence.
In order to safeguard peace there is a need to enter together, as one family, into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world, "the ark of fraternity", Pope Francis said in a speech delivered at the Founder’s Memorial.
The UAE and the Vatican have enjoyed diplomatic ties since 2007.