Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Pope's visit adds page to UAE's history book of tolerance, says Gargash

Pope Francis arrives in the UAE on Sunday night

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. AFP
Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. AFP

Pope Francis' visit to Abu Dhabi adds a new page to the UAE's history of tolerance of people of different religions and cultures, said Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

The Pope arrives in the capital on Sunday night for the historic trip, which will be the first time a Pontiff has visited the Arabian Peninsula.

Writing on Twitter, Dr Gargash said the UAE welcomes Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, and Grand Imam of Al Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb.

“It is a visit that carries great humanitarian worth and one in which our country adds a new page in our history of brotherhood and tolerance among people of different religions and cultures,” he wrote.

“The visit affirms to the world, the UAE’s approach to tolerance and peaceful coexistence, the founding principles of the UAE since the founding of the Union, guided by the legacy of our late founder Sheikh Zayed.”

Ambassadors to the UAE of countries with large Catholic populations have spoken about how excitement is building among the faithful ahead of the Pope’s visit.

Hjayceelyn Quintana, the Ambassador of the Philippines to the Emirates, said the visit is testament to the UAE’s commitment in promoting tolerance among the different nationalities which consider the country their second home.

Filipinos in the UAE and across the region are “overjoyed” at the prospect of the Pope’s visit, she said.

"On behalf of the 700,000 Filipinos across the United Arab Emirates, the third largest expatriate community in the UAE, it is an honour to warmly welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi,” said Ambassador Quintana.

"Filipinos in the Emirates and the Arab region, the majority of whom are Catholics, are overjoyed to have this once in a lifetime opportunity to be blessed with the presence of Pope Francis in their midst. Undoubtedly, this event will not only strengthen the faith of the Catholic community but will inspire them to live with humility, compassion and generosity."

Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Navdeep Suri, said there was also a “palpable sense of excitement” among Indian Catholics, which represent one of the largest components of the Catholic community in the country.

"At a personal level, I am looking towards the visit of the Pope to the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It is one of our favourite places in Abu Dhabi and the Pope’s visit there to meet leaders of other religious communities is the highest tribute to the values of tolerance and respect for other faiths that were articulated by the late Sheikh Zayed.”

The Year of Tolerance continues to carry forward Sheikh Zayed’s legacy, said Ambassador Suri.

The same spirit of tolerance is also evident in the UAE’s readiness to approve, encourage and support a project to build a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, he added.

"As the ambassador of a country that has embodied the same spirit of tolerance over the millennia, that has provided safe haven and refuge to persecuted communities from so many countries and one that is home to so many different faiths, I applaud the initiatives being taken by the UAE to pro-actively promote a culture of tolerance," said Ambassador Suri.

Updated: February 3, 2019 11:36 AM