Catholics from around the world living in the United Arab Emirates are waiting with great anticipation for Pope Francis’s on Feb. 3-5 visit, the first papal trip to the Arabian Peninsula.
“Pope Francis is the ambassa dor of peace, courageously crossing borders and fostering personal encounters with religious leaders, heads of states and humanitarian organizations in the Arab world,” said Father Johnson Kadukkan, parish priest at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi, where Francis will stop for a private visit on Feb. 5 before celebrating Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium.
There are eight Catholic Churches throughout the seven emirates of the UAE, with a ninth church under construction. Each church offers an extensive schedule of “weekend” Masses, all of which are full. Since the UAE is an Islamic country and Friday is considered a day of prayer for Muslims, Catholics attend weekend Mass on Friday or Saturday; Sunday is a workday.
St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi, for example, has about 90,000 parishioners, with eight priests celebrating nearly 20 Masses during the weekend in various languages: Arabic, English, Tagalog, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Korean, Polish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Sinhalese and the Indian languages of Konkani, Malayalam and Tamil.