Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates
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There are nearly 1,000,000 expatriates in the country who are Catholics, representing around 9% of the total population, largely Filipinos, Indians, South Americans, Lebanese, Africans, Germans, Italians, Ukrainians, Portuguese, Spanish, French and other Europeans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans . The United Arab Emirates forms part of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia and the Vicar Apostolic Bishop Paul Hinder is based in Abu Dhabi.
In June 2016, the pope received and accepted an invitation to visit the United Arab Emirates and the Holy See sent a letter to the nation's officials confirming a visit would take place at some point in the future. It was confirmed on December 6, 2018 that the pope would visit the United Arab Emirates in order to participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on "Human Fraternity" in Abu Dhabi.
On February 3, 2019, Pope Francis landed in the Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport at 9.47 p.m. ( local time) where he was greeted by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and then Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar University, which serves as the lead source for Sunni Islam education, and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders. This visit also makes him the first Pope to visit an area in the Arabian Peninsula.
On February 4, the Pope attended the Interfaith Meeting, during which he and el-Tayeb signed “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.” The same day, The Pope spoke at the Abu Dhabi Founder's Memorial, held a meeting with el-Tayeb and other Muslim elders at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and held a meeting with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the Presidential Palace.
On February 5, 2019, Pope Francis concluded his trip after giving a mass in front of a large crowd, estimated at 180,000, at Zayed Sports City. Elements of the 90-minute service were conducted in Italian, English, Arabic, Tagalog, Urdu, Malayalam, Konkani and Korean. The Papal Mass was attended by nearly 20 percent of the estimated one million Catholics living and working in the UAE. Organisers worked day and night to transform the stadium and surroundings into the largest outdoor place of Christian worship ever seen in the Arabian Peninsula. The papal mass in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday was historic not only for being the first one in the Gulf region but also for the unique diversity of the participants.
Churches in the Region
There are currently 9 churches in the region:
- St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Abu Dhabi
- St. Mary's Catholic Church, Dubai
- St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Jebel Ali
- St. Michael's Catholic Church, Sharjah
- St. Mary's Catholic Church, Al Ain
- St. Paul's Catholic Church, Musaffah
- St. Anthony of Padua Church, Ras Al Khaimah
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Fujairah
- St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Ruwais
- Sub Centres in Kalba, Khorfakkan, Dibba and Madinat Zayed.