Pope Francis visits UAE, OFWs attend the Holy Mass

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Dubai, UAE – Thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers attend the historic mass officiated by His Holiness Pope Francis, at Zayed Sports City Stadium in the capital Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, February 5.

The historic mass was attended by an estimated 180,000 Catholic faithfuls including the OFWs who were given the rare privilege to attend a first-ever display of public Christian worship in an Arab territory.

The Catholic faithfuls cheered while others cried as they welcomed the pontiff while his motorcade circled the stadium for 15 minutes, before the mass started.

OFWs attend Holy Mass presided by His Holiness Pope Francis

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces was at the stadium when the pontiff made his motorcade. 

Many Filipinos living outside Abu Dhabi have checked in hotels the night before to get a glimpse of their beloved religious leader, while others joined the caravan of buses provided for by the UAE government. The transport was free for those who wished to participate in the historic event. 

A number of OFWs also made history that day for being chosen to complete the multi-cultural choir and musicians, headed by Filipina conductress Joy Santos. The 120-member choir led thousands of faithful sing hymns in English, Arabic, and Latin during the Papal Mass.

In a video message to the people of UAE recorded days prior to his visit, Pope Francis dubbed the Emirates as “the land of prosperity and peace; a land of sun and harmony and a land of coexistence and encounter between different civilizations and cultures, where many find a safe place to work and live freely while respecting diversity”. 

The head of the Catholic Church said, “I thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity to write on your land a new page in the history of relations between religions. Confirming that we are brothers and sisters even though are different.”

Echoing the pope’s message, Philippine Consul General in Dubai and Northern Emirates, Paul Raymund Cortes said, “Pope Francis’ visit rejuvenated the faith of many Filipinos and it highlights the respect for each other’s faith and acceptance of the diversity of the peoples in the UAE.”

Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE is in response to the Crown Prince’s invitation for the revered church leader to participate in the interreligious meeting held in the capital on Monday, which was also attended by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, who is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority in Sunni Islamic thought and Islamic jurisprudence.

At the ‘International Interfaith Meeting on Human Fraternity’, the Muslim Council of Elders as well as the different leaders from various religions around the world, met with Pope Francis in a dialogue to pursue paths of mutual agreement and build bridges towards unity and harmony for years to come.

The Papal Visit also marks 2019 as the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, a declaration created as part of the National Tolerance Program approved by the UAE Cabinet on June 08, 2016, which promotes tolerance, coexistence and respect for cultural diversity, and the rejection of violence, extremism and racism. 

After the mass, the Pope Francis and his entourage immediately proceeded to the Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport for a brief farewell ceremony before he left for the Vatican.

Upon his arrival on February 2, His Holiness Pope Francis was given a grandiose welcome from the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, headed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces. 

The red-carpet ceremonies which also featured horse-mounted guards escorting the pontiff’s motorcade through the palace gardens, was witnessed exclusively by a number of prominent individuals and a chosen members of the international press. –Henri Abines/Macahilo/NewsLine.ph UAE

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