Pope Francis landed in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to begin a historic three-day visit in what was the first by a leader of the Roman Catholic Church to the Arabian Peninsula.
The head of the Catholic church was warmly received at the airport by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Dr Ahmad El Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif. A number of children lined up with bouquets of roses to welcome the pope.
Before starting his historic journey, Pope Francis said he is visiting the UAE as a brother. “I am about to leave for the United Arab Emirates. I am visiting that country as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together and to travel paths of peace together. Pray for me!” the pontiff said in a tweet.
The papal flight from Rome to Abu Dhabi was eventful. It rained in Rome earlier and showers are forecast in Abu Dhabi during the pope’s stay here, which is a sign of renewal and fresh beginnings. Showers bring blessings too, and the pope made a reference to it early into the flight. “I hear it is raining in Abu Dhabi. People there say it is a wonderful sign,” he said.
This visit of the leader of the Catholic church to the heart of modern, progressive Islam will be watched closely by the world community. The message is clear- there is no turning back.
Credit is due to an enlightened leadership that made this journey possible and the world will be a safer place after holding inter-faith dialogues and interactions over two days. The visit will culminate in a mass on Tuesday which will be attended by 120,000 people.
Earlier on the flight, the pontiff shook hands all around. He wished and embraced the media and his personal charm won the delegation over. Francis was a picture of grace and calm as he spent 30 minutes with the Press, connecting at a personal level with each member of the delegation. He blessed some, chatted with others or simply listened to what they had to say. His personal charm made the flight truly special.
In Abu Dhabi, the pope will stay at the Mushrif Palace. On Monday, he will meet the UAE leadership and Islamic religious heads. The objective is to promote cultural understanding and bridge the civilisational divide.
Source: Khaleej Times