Muscat: Residents of Oman who went to Abu Dhabi to attend the mass of Pope Francis on Tuesday expressed joy and delight at being present during such a special moment.
About 400 residents from Oman were given passes free of charge in collaboration with the organisers in the UAE. The passes were distributed to those who registered at the four churches in the Sultanate. The organisers had planned for 135,000 people to attend the mass.
Agnello Thomas travelled with his wife and two young children to see the Pope in Abu Dhabi, and told Times of Oman, “I had planned this trip in advance and had registered with my church office. I also informed my office that I’d be taking a day off, because this is a very important moment and I didn’t want to miss it. It was an honour to meet His Holiness and this is one of my best memories.”
“It was truly a blessing to see the Pope, and there were easily thousands of people who had come to see him,” added Rodney Fernandes. “To hear his message in person was really moving, and it was truly humbling to see him. People may not know the importance, but for him to be the first Pope to come to the GCC is a huge moment.”
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, was invited to the UAE by the Emirati government, and gave a special mass to visitors at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on the morning of Tuesday, February 5. His visit to the UAE was the first ever visit by a Pope to the Arabian Peninsula.
“I look forward to societies where people of different beliefs have the same right of citizenship and where only in the case of violence in any of its forms is that right removed,” the Pope said during his mass, where he also signed a human fraternity document with the Grand Imam of Azhar Al Shareef Mosque.
Fr Bijo Kudilil, the priest of Ruwi church, had previously said, “I am really happy about this because he is coming to the Middle East and this is a really historic moment, so we are all happy about it. This will be his first visit to the Middle East, and I don’t think any other Pope has come to the Middle East. Of course, people were happy to see him, but the only difficulty we have is that there were limited opportunities available for people from here to go see him, because the mass for the public audience was given in a stadium, and the seats were limited.”
He said, “The people who are going are happy about it, but there are many who will not get to see the Pope. We had made announcements in the church, where we asked people to register themselves for passes in the office, so they could come and take them from the office. We did not charge anything for these passes, but the people who travelled to the UAE booked their own ticket and visa.”
The three-day trip by Pope Francis was organised in collaboration with the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which oversees church operations in Oman, the UAE and Yemen, and had previously invited him to come to the Middle East, as well as the Vatican City authorities.
Following his historic visit to Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis has since left the UAE and was seen off by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
“May the visit be an important step in the dialogue between Muslims and Christians and contribute to mutual understanding and peace-making in the region of the Middle East,” said Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia for the UAE, Oman and Yemen.
“We are happy and grateful that Pope Francis accepted the invitation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. At the same time, the visit is also an answer to the invitation addressed to Pope Francis by the Catholic Church in the UAE.”