His Holiness Pope Francis is to visit the United Arab Emirates in February next year, it has been announced in Abu Dhabi and in the Vatican City, in Rome. The visit, to Abu Dhabi, is at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and will take place from 3rd to 5th February.
In a statement welcoming the historic visit, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, stressed its importance and expressed the appreciation of the UAE government and people, saying that it would build stronger ties of friendship and cooperation between the UAE and the Vatican.
The Pope's visit, Sheikh Abdullah said, is in accordance with the UAE's policy and efforts, under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to establish and support strong foundations of brotherhood and peaceful coexistence, both regionally and globally. Pope Francis' acceptance of the UAE invitation strengthens these efforts and will further promote interfaith dialogue, he added.
He noted that there are significant and sincere international efforts to establish initiatives and movements that can contribute towards the deepening of global human relations based on the principles of tolerance and co-existence. This was of benefit both to nations and to peoples, he said.
In a comment on the announcement, Greg Burke, Director of the press office of the Holy See, said, "The theme of the visit is 'Make Me a Channel of Your Peace' – and that’s the Pope’s intention in going to the United Arab Emirates. How all people of goodwill can work for peace will be a major topic on this trip."
As was the case with the visit by Pope Francis to Egypt in April last year, Burke said, "This visit shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to inter-religious dialogue. Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter."
During the visit, the Vatican said, Pope Francis will participate in an International Interfaith Meeting on ‘Human Fraternity.’