In pictures: Francis holds first papal mass on Arabian Peninsula

Updated: Feb 06, 2019, 02:41 PM(IST)

Francis was in the UAE at the invitation of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. While there, he called for an end to the wars in Syria and Yemen, and for greater cooperation among Muslims and Christians.  

120,000 of the faithful came

More than 120,000 worshippers packed Zayed Sports City stadium and its surroundings in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, to see the pope, who was in the Gulf country to promote inter-faith dialogue.

Organisers said Catholics from about 100 nations attended the mass, along with about 4,000 Muslims, including government officials. (All text by Reuters)


The vicar of Christ on earth

A central part of the Christian faith, the mass commemorates Jesus' last supper with his apostles on the night before he died.

Catholics believe the communion host and wine become the body and blood of Christ when consecrated by a priest during the mass. Catholics believe the pope is the vicar of Christ on earth, so participating in a papal mass is particularly special.


Look to Saint Anthony the Abbot, founder of monasticism in the desert

'It is most certainly not easy for you to live far from home, missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future,' the pope said, telling those gathered to draw inspiration from Saint Anthony the Abbot, the founder of monasticism in the desert.

'The Lord specialises in doing new things; he can even open paths in the desert,' he said at the end of a trip where he met with the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque and UAE leaders.


'Like a comforting blanket'

'For me as a Christian, this is one of the most important days of my life,' said Thomas Tijo, a 44-year-old from India's Kerala, who lives in the UAE and travelled by bus in the early hours to get to the stadium.

'We are a long way from home and this is like a comforting blanket,' he said, holding his three-year-old son, Marcus.


Cooperation between Muslims and Christians

The Pope arrived at the invitation of Abu Dhabi's crown prince. While there, he condemned the wars in Syria and Yemen, where the UAE is involved as part of a Saudi-led military coalition. 

He also called for greater cooperation between Christians and Muslims.


Prayers for migrants and peace

During the service, the pope spoke in Italian and English. The congregation prayed for migrant workers and their families and for the ending of wars.

The ceremony ended with a prayer, a thunderous round of applause from the crowd and organ music.


'I have the pope's blessings now'

'It’s a dream come true. I feel blessed,' said Rio Chavez, a 40-year-old security officer who has been in the UAE for five years. He had called his wife and mother back home in the Philippines before the mass so the pope's message about being far from home and loved ones had resonated for him.

'I feel renewed, positive, he is an inspiration for me and my family. I will work very hard to bring my family here, I have the pope's blessings now,' he said.


Hope is historic visit will bring peace

'This pope's voice is heard, so our hope and prayer is that this historic visit brings peace to this strife-torn region,' said Clitus Almeida, an Indian engineer who works in Dubai.

'Given the number of Catholics there is a dire need for more churches in the UAE,' he said, voicing hope that Saudi Arabia, where churches are banned, would also allow them.


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