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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Father and son Abu Dhabi lawyers receive Vatican knighthood for decades of 'enormous help'

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister for Tolerance, attends ceremony at St Joseph’s Cathedral in the capital

Samir Salloum, centre, and his son Ziad, receive their Vatican knighthoods at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi. Reem Mohammed / The National
Samir Salloum, centre, and his son Ziad, receive their Vatican knighthoods at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi. Reem Mohammed / The National

A father and son have been knighted by the Catholic Church in Abu Dhabi, in what is believed to be the first ceremony of its kind in the city for more than 30 years.

Samir Salloum, 73, founder and managing partner of Salloum & Partners, and his son Ziad Salloum, 38, were granted knighthoods by The Vatican in recognition of their services to the Church.

The ceremony, which was conducted on Saturday evening at St Joseph’s Cathedral by Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar for Southern Arabia, was also attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister for Tolerance, and the British, French, Belgian and Lebanese ambassadors to the UAE.

The pair were granted the honours for their work assisting the church and its parishioners, in the elder Mr Salloum’s case for more than 40 years. They have also helped many others who have been referred to the firm through embassies and consulates without charge over the years.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance attends the ceremony. Reem Mohammed / The National
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance attends the ceremony. Reem Mohammed / The National

“I shall not go into the details of how attorney at law, Samir and his son Ziad have been of service to the Catholic Church,” said Bishop Hinder at the investiture ceremony.

“Suffice to say that here, where we are permitted to practise freely our religion, and to have churches and schools and homes, this father and son have been of enormous help to the Bishop, which is myself and my predecessor.”

Speaking before the ceremony, the elder Mr Salloum said it was an honour and a surprise to receive the title.

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The award is his sixth medal, having previously received National Orders of Merit from France, Italy, Belgium and Spain for representing their embassies, commercial and consular sections, among other work.

“For me it is a fantastic recognition. It shows me that the plan and the strategy and what we have done from day one is correct and we are on the right track,” said the elder Mr Salloum, who is originally from Lebanon but is now, along with the rest of his family, a French citizen for services he rendered to the country.

“The Church itself is proof that the UAE, since inception, has been a tolerant country, accepting of other religions and accepting of others. The government of this country has been very generous with the Catholic Church."

The elder Mr Salloum joined the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great, while his son joined the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Sylvester.

The knighthoods are believed to be the first ceremony of its kind in the UAE capital for more than 30 years. Reem Mohammed / The National
The knighthoods are believed to be the first ceremony of its kind in the UAE capital for more than 30 years. Reem Mohammed / The National

Many of the privileges associated with the titles no longer exist, but Bishop Hinder said that as a knight of St Sylvester, the younger Mr Salloum, retains the privilege of riding a horse inside St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

“Coming after just 11 years of legal practice in the UAE is humbling and inspiring, and so very thrilling. If I think about it too long I get dumbstruck,” said the younger Mr Salloum, who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, where he lives with his wife Lara and two children, Lucas, 4, and Noah, 2.

“I have to say, this for me is a childhood fantasy come to life. I'm looking at bug-eyed six-year-old me and I am saying ‘You're a knight’. I most definitely will try riding on horseback in St Peter’s Square, and now all I need is a sword and a dragon to fight.”