According to the representative of St. Andrew’s Anglican church, Canon Reverend Andrew Thompson, the tour of Pope Francis “marks the culmination of a decades-long friendship between the ruling family and the Vatican ”.
The author of the book ‘Christianity’, Reverend Thompson in the UAE told: “In 1972, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, was made a papal knight in recognition of his hospitality to the Roman Catholic community in the UAE. ”
He told the renowned news agency of Emirates, “since then, the Roman Catholic church in the UAE has grown to be one of the largest communities in the world outside of a Catholic country ”.
Besides, St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi and St Mary’s in Dubai Rev Thompson added, there are other Catholic churches in Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Musaffah and Jebel Ali.
All these churches were constructed on the land provided to them by the ruling families of the UAE.
An assembly of religious worshippers contemplates the international hospitality of the UAE, with masses taking place daily in several languages.
Canon Reverend Andrew Thompson told on the visit of Pope Francis, “ pays tribute to the faithful of these worshipping communities and to the tolerance of the UAE which was modeled from the birth of the federation in 1971. It has been a mutually beneficial relationship. Roman Catholics in the UAE are sustained in their commitment to serving the Emirati nation through the freedom to worship and pray in a tradition that reminds them of home… For these hard-working people, the visit of the Pope will bring nothing but good will, encouragement, and thankfulness for the hospitality of the Emirates”
Referring to “The UAE’s call to tolerance ”, Thomson concluded, “ is a bracing push-back against global trends of intolerance. The rise of polarisation is alarming, and more than ever before, we need leadership that offers an alternative vision. This is what the Pope and the rulers of the UAE bring to our world today. I cannot think of a more iconic start to the UAE’s Year of Tolerance than witnessing in Abu Dhabi what will be the biggest act of Christian worship ever seen on this side of the Middle East. God bless the UAE”