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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi: Mass, tickets and everything you need to know

More than 100,000 people will descend on Abu Dhabi for the Pope's Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium on Tuesday

The Pope arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night to embark on a historic maiden visit to the Gulf region.

The eagerly-awaited tour, announced by the Vatican in December, is a milestone moment for interfaith relations in the UAE and the rest of the Middle East.

The Pope's Mass on Tuesday at Zayed Sports City Stadium - the cornerstone of the visit - will involve more than 100,000 people descending on Abu Dhabi, with a major logistics operation put into action to allow people from all over the country to smoothly make their way to the event.

Anticipation for the papal visit has been gathering pace in recent weeks, particularly among the UAE's sizeable Christian population.

But it is an occasion that is being welcomed by all faiths as a unifying force of good.Here is everything we know about a visit that will leave a lasting legacy for an entire nation.

How long will the papal visit last?

Pope Francis will journey from Rome to the UAE on Sunday, arriving at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi at about 10pm. He is due to fly back to Italy on Tuesday afternoon, February 5, following a three-day visit that will touch tens of thousands of lives and linger long in the memory.

How did the visit come about?

Plans for the visit have been months or even years in the making. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, delivered an official invitation last June.

It was just the latest effort to bolster growing ties between the Vatican and the UAE. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, met with Pope Francis in 2016, in an important symbol of a flourishing friendship.

On that occasion he was joined by a host of UAE dignitaries, including Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, CEO and managing director, Mubadala, and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority.

The Vatican and UAE have enjoyed diplomatic relations since 2007 and in 2010, the country appointed its first ambassador to the Vatican, Hissa Al Otaiba, who remains in the post today.

Why is the papal visit important?

The Pope's visit is a celebration of a multicultural vision that has been at work in the UAE since its foundation in 1971.

People from all nationalities, races and religions have come to call the UAE home over the years, with the country vowing to be a host that will allow them to embrace their own beliefs and customs while respecting those of their new homeland.

It is estimated that there about one million Christians in the UAE, about 10 per cent of the country's population, hailing from all corners of the globe, including the Philippines, India, many parts of Africa and the United Kingdom.

UAE leaders welcome visit

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has hailed the Pope's trip to the UAE as an opportunity to 'strengthen ties" and improve mutual understanding.

"We welcome the news of Pope Francis' visit to the United Arab Emirates - a visit that will strengthen our ties and understanding of each other, enhance interfaith dialogue and help us to work together to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world," said Sheikh Mohammed when the visit was announced.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed described Pope Francis as a "symbol of peace, tolerance and the promotion of brotherhood".

"We look forward to a historic visit, through which we will seek dialogue on the peaceful coexistence among peoples," he said.

What does the Pope think about the UAE?

Pope Francis has lavished praise on the UAE ahead of his visit.

In a video message released by the Vatican on Thursday, he said he was looking forward to experiencing a country "which strives to be a model for co-existence and human fraternity and a meeting point of different civilisations and cultures".

During the address, given in Italian, but including the Islamic greeting "salam alaikum" (peace be upon you all), he also thanked the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi for inviting him to "take part in a dialogue of religions".

Muslim and Christian faiths come together

The Pope will receive an official welcome at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport and will meet with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi at the Presidential Palace on Monday. Later in the day, he will be transported to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for a meeting of the members of the Muslim Council of Elders.

A busy day will be rounded off with the Human Fraternity Conference at the Founder's Memorial.

The pontiff will be joined by dozens of religious leaders, scholars, and cultural figures, including representatives of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths, including Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders.

The meeting of minds aims to find a road to global peace through understanding, with faith serving as a vital means to unite, not divide.

The Pope's Mass: When and where will it be celebrated?

The Pope will be offering guidance to thousands on Tuesday morning. He will meet with the congregation at St Joseph's Cathedral, who will be granted a more intimate audience with the Pope before he speaks to a crowd of more than 130,000 at a huge open-air Mass in the capital.

A convoy of about 1,000 buses will be laid on to transport the huge crowds attending the Zayed Sports City Stadium Mass.

Followers secured tickets through their local parishes, which were each given an allocation of tickets.

Thousands of dedicated people queued for hours at churches to get ensure their seat for a history-making Mass.

Some 400 buses will leave from Safa Park, 275 from Wonderland, 160 from Al Nada and 16 from Al Qusais — all headed for Zayed Sports City Stadium.

Mass is due to start at 10.30am with gates opening at 5am.

Organisers urged people to bring their own food and beverages for the trip.

The day of the Mass will be a public holiday for ticket-holders who work in the private sector.

The Pope will tour the faithful in a golf car before holding Holy Mass for a massive audience.

The Mass is expected to last for about 90 minutes. Pope Francis will be given a farewell ceremony at the Presidential Palace before flying back to Rome, concluding a three-day that will be etched in the country's collective consciousness.

How to watch a live stream Pope Francis' Mass

Those unable to see Pope Francis' mass live at Zayed Sports City will be able to watch via a live stream.

The mass will be live-streamed on the official website www.uaepapalvisit.org

What is Pope Francis' full schedule?

Sunday, February 3

13:00 Pope Francis departs from Rome airport to Abu Dhabi

22:00 Pope Francis arrives in Abu Dhabi's presidential airport terminal

Monday, February 4

12:00 Welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace

12:20 Pope Francis meets Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces

17:00 Private meeting with the Muslim Council of Elders at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

18:10 Inter-religious meeting at The Founder's Memorial

Tuesday, February 5

09:15 Private visit to St Joseph's Cathedral

10:30 Pope Francis celebrates a holy mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium

12:40 Farewell ceremony

13:00 Pope Francis departs for Rome

What is the logo and theme of the trip?

The theme and logos of the trip combine ideas of inter-religious co-operation, peace and the UAE. Officially, the theme is 'Make me a channel of your peace,' which comes from the opening lines of the Prayer of Peace of St Francis of Assisi, from whom Pope Francis takes his name.

The next lines of the prayer are:

"Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy."

St Francis of Assisi is known for putting into practice the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God."

The official logo shows a dove holding an olive branch - two symbols of peace - with a wing painted in the colours of the UAE flag.

Updated: February 5, 2019 08:07 AM

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