Abu Dhabi, Feb 5: Thousands of Catholics will take part Tuesday in the biggest worship of any non-Islamic faith in the Gulf region, when they attend a mass led by Pope Francis at Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium.
The gates opened at 5 a.m. to allow for the vast numbers of faithful to arrive into the area where Pope Francis will lead the ceremony from 10:30 a.m..
A 120-strong choir selected from churches across the UAE will sing the hymns.
The details of the sermon have not been released, but it is likely to touch on tolerance across faiths, the subject of the Human Fraternity Meeting that had taken place in Emirates Palace Hotel on the two previous days.
The conference was attended by leaders and representatives of both Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic faiths.
It finished Monday night with a signing of a declaration by the Pope and representatives of the Council of Elders at a ceremony, to build interreligious relations.
The pilgrimage to Tuesday’s mass for thousands began at 11p.m. the previous night, when they boarded hundreds of coaches in Dubai to travel to the UAE’s capital city in a massive convoy.
Schools have been closed in many parts of the country in celebration of the event.
In Abu Dhabi roads around the area where the mass will take place have been closed to allow for the 135,000 worshippers to arrive at the event.
The congregation will be accommodated in the stadium and surrounding area, and where there is no direct view of the pontiff, giant screens have been erected.
Once finished the pope will then be taken to the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi where a farewell ceremony will take place before he boards his plane and flies back to Rome.
Many – including the pope – have speculated in the past two days that this will not be last time he visits the Gulf region – with some even suggesting that he might visit Saudi Arabia in the near future.
Catholics embark on historic UAE pilgrimage