Pope Francis on Monday arrived in Abu Dhabi and met with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Concise News understands that the trip is the start of a historic trip as the first head of the Catholic Church to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice President and ruler of Dubai, also attended the meeting at the presidential palace in the capital Abu Dhabi, which took place after the pope was welcomed with military honours and a flying squadron.
Later, the pope will hold a meeting with a council of Muslim elders in the Sheikh Zayed Mosque before speaking at an inter-religious meeting attended by hundreds of representatives from different faiths.
On Tuesday, roughly 130,000 worshippers are expected to gather in a sports stadium, many coming from neighbouring countries, for an open-air Mass with the pope.
Francis, since becoming pope, has called for more dialogue between Muslims and Catholics.
The UAE is an Islamic country, with migrants, mainly from Asia, making up the majority of the population.
The Argentine Pontiff’s visit to the Arabian is a landmark, in which the priest expressed his delight.
The pope is due to make only two public addresses during the trip that would commence on Sunday.
“I am happy for this occasion the Lord has given me to write, on your dear land, a new page in the history of relations between religions,” Francis said in a video message earlier.
“Faith in God unites and does not divide, it draws us closer despite differences, it distances us from hostilities and aversion.”
According to a report, He will spend less than 48 hours in the United Arab Emirates, which is fighting alongside Saudi Arabia in the Yemen War.
The freedom to practice Christianity or any religion other than Islam varies across Gulf countries.
The papal Mass in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City on Feb.5 is expected to draw some 120,000 people.
Priests, worshipers and diplomats in the UAE say it is among the most tolerant countries in the Gulf region toward other religions.
In the UAE and Kuwait, Christians may worship in churches or church compounds, and in other places with special licences while in Saudi Arabia, churches are banned.
Francis commended the UAE as “a land that is trying to be a model of coexistence, of human brotherhood, and a meeting place among diverse civilisations and cultures.’’
He has already visited half a dozen predominantly Muslim nations and has used those trips to call for inter-religious dialogue and to condemn the notion of violence in the name of God.
In March, he will go to Morocco, but the war in Yemen, which the pope has condemned several times, could cast a shadow on the trip.