15 Pope in the UAE - Christopher Lamb

posted Feb 6, 2019, 6:48 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 6, 2019, 6:48 AM ]
Pope Francis arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, February 3, becoming the first Roman Pontiff ever to set foot in the Gulf Peninsula region.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and a delegation of Emirati officials welcomed Pope Francis at the airport, along with Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar university and mosque in Egypt.

It was dialogue that Pope Francis referenced in brief remarks to journalists travelling with him on board the papal plane.

"This morning I received news that it was raining in Abu Dhabi, and there it is thought of as a sign of blessing. Let's hope that everything goes like that," he told reporters.

But the Pope's visit to the UAE also takes place in the shadow of the Yemen conflict, and an hour before his flight from Rome departed for Abu Dhabi, he used his Angelus address to call for an end to the humanitarian crisis in the country. The Emirates have been part of a Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the war against Houthi forces in the country.

In his remarks, the Pope called for an urgent observance of the Yemen ceasefire reached in December 2018, and for its people to receive food and medicines. "The people are exhausted by the long conflict, and many children are hungry, but humanitarian aid isn't accessible," Pope Francis said at midday prayer in St Peter's Square. "The cries of these children and their parents rise up" to God.

The Catholic population in the UAE totals just under 1 million people, largely made up of migrants from the Philippines and south India. Catholics are served by 68 priests, nine parishes, and led by Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia.