- Jan 18, 2020
“Al Salamu Alaikum,” Arabic for “peace be with you,” Pope Francis said at the beginning of a video message to the people of the United Arab Emirates, which he will visit Feb. 3-5.
Pope Francis’s visit to the UAE from Feb. 3 through Feb. 5 marks the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam. The pontiff will visit Abu Dhabi, the headquarters of the Catholic Church’s Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which covers the UAE, Oman and Yemen.
Pope Francis will “encourage the Catholics throughout the world to continue to put into practice the teachings of the Church regarding dialogue with Muslims” when he visits the United Arab Emirates, according to one expert on interreligious dialogue.
In an airborne press conference on Sunday, Pope Francis strove to “deflate” expectations for a summit on clerical sexual abuse next month and also rejected optional celibacy for Catholic priests.
As the United Arab Emirates prepares to host Pope Francis in February, the country’s minister of tolerance said the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula will contribute to building bridges at a time of growing nationalism and insularism around the world.
When Pope Francis visits Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5, he will visit a land where interreligious tolerance is mandated by law; while Catholics in the United Arab Emirates count their blessings for that, the pope is expected to nudge for something more.