More than 10,000 people descended on St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai last night to collect their tickets to see Pope Francis during his coming visit to the UAE.
Officials could only allocate the parish 43,000 tickets for the public Mass in Abu Dhabi next week despite about 7,000 more local worshippers wanting to attend.
Long queues formed right around the perimeter of the church in the centre of the city as the congregation waited late into the night.
“We have people here this evening from communities all over the world and it has been a hectic day,” said Mathew Thomas, vice president of the St Mary’s parish council.
“Because we only have 43,000 tickets for the 50,000 people who registered, we had to allocate them on a first come, first served basis.”
Pope Francis will arrive in the UAE for the first time on Sunday.
He will celebrate a public Mass at Zayed Sports City in the capital on Tuesday, February 5, at 10.30am.
Mr Thomas said the response on the first day of tickets being allocated had been overwhelming.
He said there had been 10 separate queues of people at St Mary’s church, all of them keen to get their hands on a ticket.
“There has been a huge response and it’s been really encouraging to see,” he said. “The biggest representation has been from the Filipino and Indian communities.”
Those successful in picking up their tickets had wide grins while those still queuing looked on anxiously.
“I’ve been living in Dubai for 30 years and never thought I would see the day that the Pope came here to say Mass,” said Eleena D’Souza, 64, from India.
St Mary’s parish also announced it would be running buses to the Mass which would leave Dubai at 11.45pm on the night before.
Shearly Mascarenhas, 45, said: “I'll just have to wait for the Mass to start. I’m so excited to see the Pope I can wait a few more hours.”
Fellow Indian national, Tony Crasta, added: “I would not miss the Pope coming for anything. It’s a huge event as he is Our Father that we all look up to.”
Rudolph Pinto, from India, said: “We’ll probably get there about 4am but we are happy to wait. It's a privilege to be at a Mass said by The Pope.
"He is the head of our religion and is the representative of Jesus himself.”
Accountant Jhonna Baira, 31, said she had queued for two-and-a-half hours. “I am so excited as this means so much to me,” she said. “It’s the very first time there has been a Papal Mass in the UAE.”
Updated: January 29, 2019 11:08 AM