Christians rejoice at pope’s UAE visit

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Christian leaders attending a summit ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Abu Dhabi say they’re excited for the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

Bishop Camillo Ballin, the apostolic vicar of Northern Arabia, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the Roman Catholic Church provided succor for an estimated one million faithful in the United Arab Emirates, nearly all of them foreigners drawn to the country for employment.

Ballin said: “His visit is a big and important encouragement for the Christians that live in these countries because they are far from their homeland and they need especially to be encouraged so that they feel they are home.”

Rev. Andrew Thompson of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi said his congregation was excited for Pope Francis’ Mass on Tuesday.

Thompson said: “My congregation are so happy we are witnessing what will be the biggest Christian act of worship in the history of the Arabian Gulf, and we are excited to be a part of that.”

Pope Francis is seeking to turn a page in Christian-Muslim relations while also ministering to a unique, thriving island of Catholicism as he embarks on the first-ever papal trip to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

He is expected in the UAE later on Sunday, where he will become the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

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