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Papal Visit to UAE: Catholic faith in the Gulf to get a boost

Catholic faith in the Gulf countries is all set to get a boost as it has been officially announced that Pope Francis will undertake his first ever visit to the Arabian Peninsula in the first week of February next year.

Papal Visit to UAE: Catholic faith in the Gulf to get a boost

Catholic faith in the Gulf countries is all set to get a boost as it has been officially announced that Pope Francis will undertake his first ever visit to the Arabian Peninsula in the first week of February next year.

In fact, in the history of the Catholic Church in the Gulf nations, it is for the first time that the Pontiff is visiting the Arabian part of the world.

The short visit --- February 3 – 5 --- will be momentous for the Catholics in the Gulf nations and especially for the Bishop of Rome, who is head of the college of all Bishops and the head of the Catholic Church.

The theme that the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia has rolled out to mark this visit is from the opening lines of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. The prayer begins with: “Make me a channel of your peace!”

Catholics in the Arabian Peninsula consisting of countries like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar etc have been steadily increasing over the decades, thanks primarily to the inflow of migrant labourers from countries like India and Philippines. There are estimated to be nearly 4.5 million migrant population working and residing in the United Arab Emirates. Out of them, 1.5 million are Christians, and 500, 000 are Catholics.

In Kuwait, out of the 2.4 million estimated migrant workers, 460, 000 are Christians and 350,000 of them are Catholics. The number of Christians in Qatar are 1.65 million. 120, 000 are followers of the Christian faith, whereas 100,000 are Catholics.

The Vatican on Thursday announced the visit by Pope Francis to the UAE is on acceptance of an invitation by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE's Armed Forces to participate in the Interfaith Meeting about “Human Fraternity”. In addition, the visit is also an answer to the invitation to Pope Francis by the Catholic Church in the UAE.

Bishop Paul Hinder of the Arabian Vicariate of Southern Arabia (UAE, Oman and Yemen) said, “I express my gratitude to the UAE government, which has made this visit possible. I urge the Christian community and our Catholic faithful that we respect and cooperate with the instructions of a special team, which is being put in place for the visit. The team will work closely with the government to ensure this visit goes smoothly and according to plan.”

“The generosity of the UAE government has also been extended in making it possible to celebrate a Mass, which will be on February 5 at a public venue in Abu Dhabi. These are warm and kind gestures that we appreciate and acknowledge,” said Bishop Hinder.

“We welcome Pope Francis with open hearts and pray with Saint Francis of Assisi: “Make me a channel of your peace!” May the visit be an important step in the dialogue between Muslims and Christians and contribute to mutual understanding and peace-making in the Middle East,” added Bishop Hinder.

A logo to mark the visit has also been unveiled by the Vicariate and this will be used on all official communication leading up to the Pope’s visit.

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