Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Parishioners celebrate their faith at Christmas Day Mass in Dubai

The Pope's visit to the UAE has Dubai faithful excited for the future

Christians from all over the world came together at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Dubai for Christmas mass.

The Church expected to welcome more than 30,000 worshippers for its many services throughout Christmas Day in the Jebel Ali district of the emirate.

The morning mass was held by Father Varghese Biji, who called for people “to embrace the light at Christmas and not let darkness in”.

Father Biji, from India, said it was important that people do not lose sight of what is important in life at Christmas.

“We have to live in the light, not the darkness,” he said, during the mass.

“Without light in our lives, we will only be living in sadness. You cannot experience joy without light.”

He also called for people to stop thinking of themselves and put the needs of others first.

“You need to prioritise Jesus in your lives.

“You need to put others first as well before you think of yourself. That is the only way you will experience joy.”

The impending arrival of Pope Francis in the UAE was the main talking point among the congregation and church staff after mass.

“People are really excited about the Pope’s visit in February,” said Father Biju P George, who is based at the Jebel Ali church.

“It’s too early to say if we will be showing a live screening of the pope’s mass in Abu Dhabi, but we will certainly be marking the occasion in some way.”

Pope Francis is due to visit the UAE from February 3 to 5. The highlight for many people will be the public mass at Zayed Sports City onthe final day of his trip, with a crowd of more than 100,000 people expected to attend the historic occasion.

“We will definitely be travelling to see the pope,” said Pablo R Villaneuva, 48, who was at Christmas Day mass with his family.

“We are really looking forward to it. It is a little unfortunate for people who have to work that it’s in the middle of the week, but we still plan to be there.”

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Read more:

'Everybody is excited': Roman Catholics in the UAE can't wait to see the Pope and attend public Mass

The Pope's visit: The story of the Roman Catholic Church in the UAE

Pope Francis to make landmark visit to UAE

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The Spaniard said that attending Christmas Day mass was a pleasure for him and his family.

“It is critical that we attend mass together, not just at Christmas but all the time,” said Mr Villaneuva, who works as a finance director in the UAE.

“It is fantastic that we are made to feel welcome to practise our religion here in the UAE. It allows us to keep our roots and religion is the best heritage that we can give our family.”

His 15-year-old daughter Cristina said

: “It is part of our culture so it is important to be able to express that.”

American Simon Carvajal said he would be doing his best to attend the pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi.

He also said that being a Catholic was a key part of his identity, which was why attending Christmas mass was a must for him.

“It’s important because it brings our community together,” said the 49 year old, who works as a training manager.

“It brings different people from all over the world together. We might all speak different languages but the church brings us together.

“It is a way for us to unite and celebrate Christmas time as well. We aren’t all lucky enough to be with our families this year, so that is why it is important to appreciate this.”

The opportunity to practise a Christian religion in a Muslim country was not lost on those at the mass.

“When we moved to Dubai three years we weren’t sure that we would be able to attend a Catholic mass,” said German national Dirk Blesius, after attending mass with his wife Sarah and daughters Amelia and Elinor.

“That is why we are so grateful for the opportunity to do so.”

He said that his family would definitely be at the pope’s mass in February.

“I saw the Pope visit Munich in 2005 so I definitely want to be there when he visits the UAE,” he said.

Filipina Janeth Baldivino, 42, said that she would not miss mass on Christmas Day because of her faith.

“Faith is what makes us strong and it brings people together,” she said. “It is a big influence on people’s lives.”

Updated: December 25, 2018 07:49 PM

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