UAE's Catholic community prepares for Pope Francis's historic Abu Dhabi Mass
Families describe sense of excitement over February Mass
Thousands of people from across the UAE are readying themselves for Pope Francis's historic visit to Abu Dhabi.
Families around the Emirates have described the palpable sense of excitement since the surprise announcement of the two-day visit next year.
Many have already booked time off work to ensure they can make the most of the unique occasion.
A large public Mass will be held at Zayed Sports City at 10.30am on February 5, with more than 100,000 people expected to attend.
“I plan to reach the grounds early so I get a good spot,” said Lucielle Wallace, an office assistant who works in Dubai.
“I’m going with friends who have also applied for a day off. Seeing the Pope so close is not something we ever want to miss.”
A full itinerary for the Pontiff's landmark visit to the UAE was revealed on Wednesday.
The packed schedule includes a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Founder's Memorial.
After arriving late in the evening from Rome on February 3, Pope Francis will first be met at the Presidential Airport by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
The following day, Sheikh Mohamed will host a reception at the Presidential Palace, followed by a meeting with the Muslim Council of Elders at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and an inter-faith meeting at the Founder's Memorial.
Much of the visit will be private, but the public Mass will offer multinational Catholic congregations far from home a rare chance to see the leader of their church in person.
Details about tickets and entry are still being worked out by the Vatican and the UAE Government.
Pope Francis will fly back to Rome following the event at Zayed Sports City.
Roshan Chacko, a regular at St Francis of Assisi church in Jebel Ali, said the visit held huge significance to the Catholic community in the country.
“He is a man of peace and speaks of inter-religious harmony,” he said. “This has always been his message when he has travelled all over the world.
“It is a historic visit and my family will definitely be there.”
Iris Tumalom, a Filipina who works at a laundry shop in Ras Al Khaimah, said she and her sister planned to go.
“Attending the mass and seeing the Pope for the first time in person is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.
“My sister is also so excited but she’s still waiting to see if she can take a day off.
“In 2015, the Pope visited the Philippines and I was very sad that I couldn’t attend due to my mother illness.”
Updated: January 3, 2019 04:55 PM