As I post this, Pope Francis and his entourage are en route to Dhabi, capital of the UAE, United Arab Emirates. The Alitalia plane carrying the papal party left Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 1:27 pm, Rome time. They are expected to land at about 7 pm. Rome time – 10 pm in Abu Dhabi.
Before his departure, Francis recited the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. He said he is following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen “with great concern” and called on the international community “to urgently promote compliance with the agreements reached, to ensure the distribution of food, and to work for the good of the population.”
The Holy Father said Yemen’s population is “exhausted by the lengthy conflict and a great many children are suffering from hunger, without being able to have access to food. The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God. Following his appeal, the Pope invited everyone to pray “for our brothers and sisters of Yemen,” and he led the crowd in the recitation of the Hail Mary.
Immediately following the Angelus, Pope Francis headed out to Fiumicino Airport to begin his 27th Apostolic journey abroad. Before boarding the plane, the Holy Father made a brief stop at a homeless shelter set up at the airport and promoted by Aeroporti di Roma and Caritas of Porto-Santa Rufina. He greeted those assisted by the project, which began in 2017 and carries the name, “Life in transit: the human face of an airport”.
135,000 TICKETS FOR POPE FRANCIS’ MASS IN UAE
The February 3-5 visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi in the UAE is the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)
Thousands of Catholics are queuing outside churches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for tickets to the first Holy Mass by a Pope in the Arabian peninsula next week, local media have reported.
Pope Francis will arrive in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, Sunday night. The theme of the papal visit is, ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’. This will be the Argentine Pope’s 27th foreign apostolic visit.
The highlight of this trip will be a Mass by the Pope in the morning on Tuesday, February 5, at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City, which some 135,000 people are expected to attend.
Tickets will not only grant the thousands of faithful access to the papal Mass in and around the stadium, but also a day off work. This time off was announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and underlines the UAE’s ongoing dedication to facilitating interfaith dialogue which also coincides with its Year of Tolerance 2019.
Ticket seekers are showing a lot of patience and determination to get access to the rare occasion of a papal Mass. “There was already a long line by around 4:30 p.m., even though ticket distribution started later at 6 p.m.,” said church volunteer Lucy Pascua, who was guiding the crowds at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai on Tuesday.
Approximately 36,000 tickets have to be distributed to individuals by the end of Friday, Pascua said.
There are 1 million Catholics living in the UAE according to estimates by the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia (AVOSA), the official Catholic Church jurisdiction in charge of UAE, Oman, and Yemen.
With a huge demand for the 135,000 seats available for Tuesday’s Mass, names were selected from a draw, often with only one member of a family being granted access to the Mass.
A multinational 120-member choir comprising of singers from 9 churches of the UAE has been formed to sing at the papal Mass. They will be accompanied by an organ and a ten-member brass ensemble. The choir members are from among 283 singers from 120 church choirs who appeared for auditions. They include Filipinos, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Armenians, French, Italians, Nigerians, Americans, Indonesians, Dutch and Argentinians. The choir will be led by Joy Santos of the Philippines.
APOSTOLIC VICARIATES ADMINISTER CHURCH ON ARABAIAN PENINSULA
The Apostolic Vicariate for Southern Arabia (www.avosa.org): The Apostolic Vicar is Archbishop Paul Hinder, OFM Cap.
When you go to http://www.avosa.org, scroll down for video ” POPE FRANCIS’ VISIT TO THE UAE – PREPARATION” and you’ll see fascinating images of Abu Dhabi, among other things.
AVOSA (@avosarabia) · Twitt
Statistics of the Southern Arabia Vicariate (updated Dec 31, 2017):
Area of the territory (km2) 929,969
Total population 42,948,063
Total parishes 16
Diocesan priests 18
Priests belonging to Religious Institutes 49
Permanent deacons living in the diocese 1
Professed non-priest Men Religious belonging to Religious Institutes 1
Professed Women Religious belonging to Religious Institutes 50
The Apostolic Vicariate for Northern Arabia: (www.avona.org). The Apostolic Vicar for the Northern Vicariate is Bishop Camillo Ballin.
The website explains the Vicariate:
1. Christianity arrived in the Arabian Peninsula before Islam, in the first four and five centuries after Jesus Christ. Remains of a Christian Church of the fifth century are in Failaka (Kuwait) and in other places of the Peninsula. Islam came up during the seventh century. The Arabian Peninsula is now the centre of a growing economy and one of the world’s hotspots for the Church, too. Many think that there are no Christians in Arabia and they are surprised on a visit here or when they read about it.
The Church in the Arabian Peninsula is an exclusively pilgrim and migrant Church. Since the early nineties, the Catholic Church in the region has developed even more rapidly. The expatriates constitute nearly all of the faithful in the Vicariate. Though no official figures exist, it is estimated that there are over 1 million Catholics in Saudi Arabia alone. Kuwait has about 350,000; Bahrain around 80,000 and Qatar around 200,000 to 300,000 Catholics. The faithful are all working migrants from a hundred nations, the majority being from the Philippines and India. About eighty percent of the faithful belong to the Latin Rite while the rest belong to the Eastern Rite. It would not be untrue to say that Arabia has now become the face of a living Christian community, a “bridge” between diverse areas of the world and therefore between diverse cultures.
2. The Catholic presence in Arabia where Islam is the state religion is a seemingly peaceful one. The Catholic community is law abiding and trusted by the local governments. We enjoy freedom of worship within the confines of our parish compounds. The running of the parishes is further enhanced by the dedicated service of the pastors and the parish organizations made up of thousands of lay volunteers in catechesis, youth and family ministry, hospital and prison apostolate and social work.
However, restriction on the number of priests, too few churches and limited space in the churches are the difficulties that we face, especially when the attendance at Masses is very high, around 25,000 on Fridays with 10 and more Masses and during the Christmas and Eastertide. Other problems such as distance from the church, employment and camp rules also make participation for many impossible. It is also forbidden (under threat of punishment) to engage in any public activity or display of religion, including proselytizing (the act of attempting to convert people to Christianity).
3. The Vicariate is a rich blend of Rites, nationalities and cultures and so the Church has had to adapt its pastoral work accordingly. The Rescript ex audientia approved by Pope John Paul II in 2003 and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 gives jurisdiction over all the faithful of whatever Church, rite or nationality, to the Bishop resident in the Gulf and under whose sole jurisdiction all the priests in the Vicariates work. The Bishop has the obligation that the faithful of the other Rites may practice and observe the norms of their Rite, which they do to the best of their ability. The Rescript has helped to maintain and promote unity, to avoid fragmentation and to provide the best possible pastoral ministry to all the Catholic faithful.
4. Both the Vicariates have been placed under the protection of Our Lady of Arabia. On January 16, 2011, in Kuwait, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, proclaimed Our Lady of Arabia Patroness of both Vicariates and of the entire Arabian Peninsula.
May the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, Supreme Witness intercede to make more vibrant the witness of the Church in Arabia.
APOSTOLIC VICAR EXPLAINS CATHOLIC CHURCH PRESENCE ON ARABIAN PENINSULA
Archbishop Paul Hinder spoke October 13, 2010 at the special Synod for the Middle East. Following is his report:
There are two Vicariates of the Arabian Peninsula, one for northern Arabia comprising Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and the southern vicariate for the UAE, Oman, and Yemen. There are no native Christians on the Arabian peninsula. The 3 million Catholics in a population of 65 million inhabitants are all labor migrants from a hundred nations, the majority from the Philippines and India. About 80% are of Latin Rite. The others belong to Catholic Oriental Churches. Both Apostolic Vicars are of Latin Rite; the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin has the ius commissionis for the territory; two thirds of the 80 priests are Capuchin Friars from India, the Philippines, Europe and America, belonging to different rites.
The special situation in the Vicariates of the Gulf:
1. Catholic presence in Arab countries with Islam as state religion. Strict immigration laws (restriction on the number of priests) and security system. Individual rights and social care very limited. No freedom of religion (no Muslim can convert but Christians are welcome into Islam), limited freedom of worship in designated places, granted by benevolent rulers (except in Saudi Arabia). Churches too few, attendance very high, in a single parish up to 25 000 on Fridays with 10 and more masses. Distance from church, employment and camp rules make participation for many impossible. Catholic Church is law abiding and trusted by the government.
2. Unity of Catholic Church in diversity of rites and nationalities. The Church has to adapt its structures and pastoral work to the limits imposed by the external circumstances. The Rescript ex audientia approved by Pope John Paul II in 2003 and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 gives jurisdiction over all the faithful of whatever Church, rite or nationality, to the two Ordinaries under whose sole jurisdiction all the priests in the Vicariates work. The Ordinaries have the obligation that the faithful of other sui iuris Churches may practice and observe the norms of their Rite, which they do to the best of their ability. The Rescript has helped to maintain and promote unity, to avoid fragmentation and to provide the best possible pastoral ministry to all the Catholic faithful. All priests must render service to all the faithful, assisted by the thousands of lay volunteers in catechesis, youth and family ministry, hospital and prison apostolate and social work.
Through fraternal relations between the two Apostolic Vicars and the heads of the Oriental sui iuris Churches, communion will be strengthened and agreements of collaboration made in respect of the particular situation in order to make more vibrant the witness of the Church in the Gulf which is an exclusively pilgrim and migrant Church.