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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

'I feel different just holding the ticket': Dubai residents share excitement for Pope's Mass

Families at St Mary's Church are preparing to travel very early to Abu Dhabi to see Pope Francis

Excitement was in the air at St Mary's Church in Dubai as residents gear up to welcome Pope Francis in what they described as "a historic visit".

UAE residents from over the world said they are overwhelmed at being given the chance to witness the Pope's visit and seek his blessings.

Pope Francis will be delivering a public Mass at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City on Tuesday morning at 10.30am.

For many ticket holders, they are the first people in their families and villages to see the Pope or attend a papal Mass, a cause of much joy for their loved ones back home.

On Friday morning, St Mary's Church was abuzz with activity as people queued to get their tickets and lingered afterwards with friends.

Around 80 counters have been set up for different communities such as Goan, Malayalam, Filipino, Sri Lankan and Pakistani at the church, where 43,000 tickets are being distributed.

So far, 22,000 people have collected tickets at the church.

Michelle Escobar, 39, from the Philippines, works at a travel agency. She will be heading to Abu Dhabi for the Mass with her family, which includes her husband, son Lhiam, 6, and one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Lhiaziamae.

"We got our tickets and we couldn’t believe it. I felt different just holding it. I was afraid I would miss the chance of seeing the Pope.

“I plan to go to Abu Dhabi the night before the Mass. We don’t know yet if we will be going by car or by bus.

"I saw that around 120,000 are going to be there, and I don’t know how I will manage.

"We have already told our son that he has to prepare from now. This is something he will look back at in his life and it will be a very special memory for him.

Lhiam said that he was "so excited" to see the Pope.

Almost 1,000 specially arranged buses will be taking people from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for the mass on Tuesday, where there will be no official parking.

Around 135,000 people are expected at the public mass, which was expanded from 120,000, but the exact details of road closures are so far patchy.

For Melanie Rodrigues, 34, an Indian architect, hearing the Pope alongside her husband and daughter Breanna, 4, will be a very special experience.

"We were very excited to hear the Mass especially because this is the Year of Tolerance. We will go before time and I don't know how many hours I will have to wait," she said.

"I think I will carry some snacks for my daughter, it's going to be a long day with a child.

"Our family in Goa were more excited than us when the visit was announced."

Eddie and Clarice Tacang, both from the Philippines, will be heading to Abu Dhabi with friends.

“I am excited to know what his message will be at the Mass. Our faith will be strengthened through this experience," said Eddie, who works in logistics.

“We are so excited to see the pope as it is such a special experience," said Clarice, who works in the health and beauty industry.

“The event is extra special because we are the first people in our families to attend a papal Mass."

Herve Faujour, 42, from France, said the event is a unique one and he is looking forward to taking his family, including his three children.

“We will be waking very early and leaving Dubai around 3am," he said.

“We will have to walk a few kilometres on the day and I hope it’s not too cold at that time.

Ibrahim Jouaneh, 32, from Jordan, who works in Dubai's banking, sector said: "The pope’s visit to the UAE is a historical event and I am excited to be a part of this.

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Podcast: The Pope, me and the UAE

Updated: February 1, 2019 05:05 PM

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