I did post daily news about the abuse summit on Saturday and Sunday, but only on my Facebook page. There were a few exceptional moments, including press briefings, and I have to say that I personally felt that the three best talks of the four-day summit were from three women, Linda Ghisoni, undersecretary for the Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life, Sr. Veronica Openibo from Nigeria,, superior of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and celebrated vaticanista (long before the summit!) Valentina Alazraki who has covered the Vatican for 45 years and been on 150 – yes, 150! – papal flights.

Go to for their words and stories and my comments. I gave Valentina an Oscar – see why! If you had read or heard her talk online, you’d have personally handed her the Oscar!

Also go there to see the question one journalist asked the final day of briefings about Pope Francis and cover up!


The four-day Vatican meeting on the Protection of Minors, called by the Pope to reflect on the “brutality” of the worldwide problem of clerical sex abuse, ended in dramatic fashion with a penitential liturgy on Saturday and Mass on Sunday after which Pope Francis delivered a 3,500 word major address declaring that the Church will lead an all-out battle against abuse.

Earlier, Saturday afternoon in a striking penitential liturgy in the Apostolic Palace’s Sala Regia, there was a collective confession by Pope Francis and Church leaders attending the abuse summit: “We confess that bishops, priests, deacons, and religious in the Church have done violence to children and youth – that we have shielded the guilty – that we have not acknowledged the suffering of many victims – that we bishops did not live up to our responsibilities. … Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.”

Sunday, in his lengthy speech following the summit’s concluding Mass, The Holy Father said, “The meaning behind child sex abuse comes from the present-day manifestation of the spirit of evil,” adding that consecrated persons who commit such crimes become “tools of Satan.” He outlined an 8-point program the Church will undertake to fight abuse.

Abp Mark Coleridge gave the homily at Mass and Pope Francis spoke afterwards

On Sunday at the final press briefing, Fr. Federico Lombardi, conference moderator, announced some concrete initiatives underway in the Vatican, including a new Motu Proprio from the Pope “on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons,” and a Vademecum or manual, to be published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to help bishops around the world clearly understand their duties and tasks.

Also, added Fr. Lombardi, “in a spirit of communion with the universal Church, the Pope has expressed the intention of creating task forces of competent persons to help episcopal conferences and dioceses that find it difficult to confront the problems and produce initiatives for the protection of minors.”


The Holy See Press Office interim director announced today that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness the Sheikh Abdallah Ben Zayed Al Nahyan, was received today in a private manner at the Casa Santa Marta at 12.30 pm by the Holy Father Francis with whom he stayed and conversed for 45 minutes.

Minister Ben Zayed wanted to tell the Pope of the decisions that the government of the United Arab Emirates has undertaken to promote the application of the intentions of the document on “Human Brotherhood for World Peace and common coexistence” signed by the Holy Father and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahamad al-Tayyib (Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019), some of which have already been implemented and others being implemented.

The delegation gifted the Holy Father a small box containing some stones with inscriptions in Arabic that express messages related to love, tolerance and brotherhood. The Pope gave a copy of an engraving dating from the 17th century that shows the construction work in St. Peter’s Square, and four large photo albums intended for the president and vice president of the United Arab Emirates, containing a selection of the best images of the visit of the Pontiff in the country earlier this month.

At the end of the encounter the Holy Father had lunch together with the minister and the delegation from the UAE.


By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)

Despite all of the potential that science has, the accumulation of it all does not always obtain the results hoped for, said Pope Francis as he addressed the çPontifical academy for Life that is marking its 25th anniversary, created by Pope John Paul II in 1994.

All that science could offer

We know the problems our world is facing, said the Pope, and one of them is that we seem to be closing in more and more on ourselves. This underlines a “dramatic paradox”: that at the point in which science could offer the equal well-being that God wished for to all people, “we observe an embittering of conflicts and a growth of inequality.”

There are two sides to technology, said Francis. On the one hand, we cannot go without it; on the other hand, it imposes its logic upon us. “Yet, technology is a human characteristic”.

However, what we must understand, added Francis, is that the artificial devices that simulate human capacities, are in fact, lacking in human qualities. These machines cannot take into consideration the phenomena of experience or that of conscience.

Benefits of science on every person

This must be taken into account, the Holy Father told his guests, when imposing the regulations for the use of these machines and in researching them. In order to work towards a constructive interaction between humans and the most recent versions of these machines, which he says, “are radically transforming the scenario of our existence.” The Pope explained that, “if we are able to make use of these references in practice, the extraordinary potential of new discoveries can radiate their benefits on every person and on humanity as a whole.”

Sharing in order to benefit

Pope Francis noted that the task of the Academy for Life is an honorable one in “the ethical alliance in favor of human life.” Now that we are surrounded by more and more sophisticated machinery, and they directly involve human qualities, both physical and of the psyche, the sharing of information between those working in the field becomes more and more important.

He urges the participants at the plenary assembly to take the example of the faithful masters of this technology “who have wisely and boldly entered into the processes of their contemporaneity, with a view to an understanding of the heritage of faith at the height of a reason worthy of humanity”.


From interim Holy See Press Office director Alessandro Gisotti:

In the Sala Bologna of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, a restricted interdicasterial meeting was held this morning from 9.00 to 13.00, focusing on the fight against child abuse. This meeting is a first concrete effect of the meeting on “The Protection of Minors in the Church” that ended yesterday. Also at the meeting, together with some superiors of the Secretariat of State and the heads of the dicasteries who are particularly committed to this topic,were members of the organizing committee and the moderator of the meeting, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, who focused on the meeting as it unfolded, initial reactions to the meeting and follow-up.

Above all, and unanimously, accent was placed on how necessary the just ended meeting was, so desired by Pope Francis. It was also highlighted that this event must now be followed by concrete measures as strongly requested by the People of God. In this context, the fundamental principles that inspire the documents and task forces, announced in the final press conference of the meeting, were illustrated. These initiatives, it has been affirmed, will have to be communicated in the clearest, most timely and detailed way possible.

In the interventions of the dicastery heads, who reaffirmed their commitment to follow the example of Pope Francis in the fight against abuse, the accent was placed on the need to listen to the victims as a starting point for this commitment. Other points underlined: the greater involvement of the laity on this front and the need to invest in training and prevention, taking advantage of those realities with a consolidated experience in this field. Lastly, it was highlighted that the progress of the follow-up of the meeting should be verified with interdicasterial meetings in the name of synodality and synergy.


Pope Francis has returned to Rome and, though I’ve not seen confirmation as I write, I’m sure he stopped off at St, Mary Major Basilica to pray, as he always does before and after a trip, before the image of Mary, noted to Romans as Salus populi romani.

He surely is tired after a hectic and very brief time in the UAE, the long flight back to Rome and the traditional on board press conference but Francis is scheduled to preside tomorrow morning at the weekly general audience.


Pope Francis on Tuesday wrapped up his Apostolic Visit to the United Arab Emirates, and our correspondent in Abu Dhabi reflects on the historic occasion. (vaticannews)
By Linda Bordoni – Abu Dhabi

As soon as I looked at the programme for Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates, I categorized it as a two-fold affair: day one for meeting the Muslim world and pursuing inter-religious dialogue; day two for being with Catholics and affirming them in their faith.

That’s what it looked like on paper, with Monday unfolding in an Arabian Palace, a Mosque, and at an interfaith Conference. And Tuesday started with a visit to Abu Dhabi’s Catholic Cathedral and ended with the celebration of Holy Mass in the presence of 180,000 people.

But no sooner had Pope Francis boarded the papal plane taking him back home to the Vatican, my perception of this intense, whirlwind visit, began to change.

One plea for everyone’s ears
There was no division, I realised, between day one and day two. He was not speaking separately to Muslims and then to Catholics. His vision and his mission are – as always – for one human family, and his plea to build a future together “or there will be no future”, was for everyone’s ears.

Someone who never tires of condemning divisiveness, separation, and the erection of barriers of every kind would never perpetrate that kind of mistake!

In fact, at all moments and in all occasions, the first-ever meeting of a Pope with the peoples of the UAE took place in a joyful atmosphere of mutual respect.

The solemnity of the historic occasion was felt by all, as was a palpable gratitude towards the Crown Prince of the UAE for issuing the invitation and towards Pope Francis for accepting it.

The pledge and the message
Of course, many important words were spoken. A pledge of fraternity between a Pope and a Grand Imam was signed to work together in perpetuity and to reject violence and radicalism. The Pope’s own Catholic flock was reminded it is never alone with Jesus at its side.

But at the heart of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage was an urgent reminder to all – no one excluded – that we are called to look after each other as one human family.

The visit will undoubtedly go down in the books as a milestone in Catholic-Muslim relations. But I was in Abu Dhabi for the occasion, and will never forget that over-arching cry for justice, fraternity, and an end to human misery.

Click here for some video highlights of the papal trip:


Pope Francis offers a “re-reading” of the Beatitudes during the celebration of Mass at the conclusion of his brief visit to Abu Dhabi.
By Andrea Tornielli

Seeing them gathered together in the Zayed Sports City Stadium, the “little flock” of Emirati Christians did not seem so little, as Pope Francis told them that living the evangelical Beatitudes did not consist in grand gestures. Although Jesus left no writings of His own, and did not build anything imposing, His very life showed that the Christian faith plays out in the actions of everyday life, and in “littleness.”

Christians are not called to perform great works or accomplish striking, extraordinary, superhuman acts. It is in the extraordinariness of the ordinary that they bear witness. It is thanks to the holiness of everyday life, without extraordinary signs, that the most surprising miracles occur. Thus Christianity flourishes, is communicated by osmosis, without need of marketing strategies, media cleverness, torrents of words, or the abilities of supermen.

The Beatitudes, turning worldly criteria on their head, “invite us keep our hearts pure, to practice meekness and justice despite everything, to be merciful to all, to live affliction in union with God.” It is like a tree, Pope Francis explained, in dry land – like that of the desert that characterises this region of the world – which every day absorbs the polluted air and restores oxygen.

The invitation to this “little flock” of Christians in the UAE is to continue to be an oasis of peace, of meekness, and of mercy – because it is the person who responds to accusations with meekness, who is blessed, rather than the one that attacks or desires to oppress others. The one who considers others as brothers and sisters is blessed, and not the one who sees only enemies.

Pope Francis points to the example of St. Francis of Assisi who, instructing the friars who were leaving for Arab lands, asked them not to quarrel or argue, but to be “subject to every human creature for love of God”, confessing to being Christians. In an age, like today, in which many people clothe themselves in armour (perhaps only virtual), the Pope recalled that Christians set out “armed only with their humble faith and concrete love.” Because the Christian lives only on these, and knows that today it is only by means of this witness that the Gospel is proclaimed. (Analysis by vaticannews)


Andrea Tornielli in his last paragraph in the previous article, speaks of St. Francis and his friars in Arab lands, and I found a fascinating story precisely about that visit 800 years ago by Fr. Jack Wintz, OFM on the Franciscan webpage:


Franciscans and Muslims encountered one another during the lifetime of Saint Francis (1181-1226). Indeed, he sent friars to the Holy Land in 1217. Two years later, Crusaders fought Muslim soldiers at Damietta, Egypt, near the mouth of the Nile. At considerable risk, Saint Francis engaged Sultan Malik al-Kamil, their leader, in peaceful dialogue.

What follows is a brief description of that encounter, based on accounts written soon afterward. The Christian and Muslim armies stood opposite each other at close quarters. The sultan had decreed that anyone who brought him the head of a Christian should be rewarded with a gold piece. Francis, however, the knight of Christ, was unafraid and hoped to realize his ambition of dying as a martyr for Christ. Friar Illuminatus accompanied him.

The Muslim soldiers seized them fiercely and dragged them before the sultan. When he asked why they were sent and by whom, Francis replied courageously that they had been sent by God, not by man, to show him and his subjects the way of salvation and to proclaim the truth of the gospel message. Francis proclaimed the triune God and Jesus Christ, the savior of all, with steadfastness, courage and spirit.

When the sultan saw the little friar’s enthusiasm and courage, he listened to him willingly and pressed him to stay with him. Then he offered Francis a number of valuable gifts, but the saint was anxious only for the salvation of souls and refused the sultan’s gifts. The sultan, astonished at Francis’ utter disregard for worldly wealth, felt greater respect than ever for the saint. (In fact, Francis accepted an ivory horn that is displayed in Assisi’s Basilica of St. Francis.)

Bishop Jacques de Vitry, who was a contemporary of Francis, wrote that the sultan “had Francis led back to [the Christian] camp with many signs of honor and with security precautions, but not without saying to him: ‘Pray to God for me, that God may reveal to me the law and the faith that is more pleasing to him.’” (These texts are from Saint Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis and from Jacques de Vitry’s History of the Orient in St. Francis of Assisi: Omnibus of Sources, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2008.)

To continue reading:


As I write, Pope Francis is spending his first and only full day in the UAE – the United Arab Emirates, a federation of 7 states on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf.

The first Pope ever to visit the Emirates, he arrived at 10 pm local time Sunday night – the UAE is 3 hours ahead of Rome – and will be back in Rome tomorrow, Tuesday February 5. The theme of the 27th foreign apostolic trip is, ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’.

Pope Francis a short while ago concluded his talk to the International Interfaith Meeting on Human Fraternity organized by the Muslim Council of Elders (see summary below). The working sessions focus on how different religions can work together to help build peace, especially in places where religion had been a source of conflict

The highlight of this trip will be the papal Mass tomorrow morning, February 5, at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City, which some 135,000 people are expected to attend. A multinational 120-member choir comprising of singers from 9 churches of the UAE has been formed to sing at the papal Mass. Members are from among 283 singers from 120 church choirs who appeared for auditions.

The Catholic Church on the Arabian Peninsula is divided into two vicariates – the Apostolic Vicariate for Northern Arabia (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar) and the Apostolic Vicariate for Southern Arabia – The UAE, Oman and Yemen. The Southern vicariate is hosting the papal visit.

Both the Vicariates have been placed under the protection of Our Lady of Arabia.

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 100 nations, the majority from the Philippines and India. About 80% of the Catholics are of Latin Rite.

In Saudi Arabia and Yemen, by contrast, churches are not permitted and all worship must be done privately.


Pope Francis was welcomed in grand style on his first day in the United Arab Emirates. Our correspondent in Abu Dhabi gives her impressions on the ground.
By Linda Bordoni – Abu Dhabi

Say what you like about the opulence, but one thing is for sure: the Emiratis know how to put on a welcome ceremony and Pope Francis was certainly treated to the full shebang.

I could see it coming: having lived in Italy for many years I can say I am quite accustomed to the beauty of Carrara marble and exquisite art work, but never have I seen such a lavish use of precious marble, crystal chandeliers, towering domes, and gold decorations of all shapes and sizes.

Such a historic visit as this, along with the attention of the international media, provides a unique occasion to show the world how guests are welcomed and pampered in the United Arab Emirates.

For days the acrobatic pilots of a special air team practiced their aerial acrobatics above the bay. Today, they greeted Pope Francis from above, spurting trails of yellow and white smoke in honour of the Vatican colours.

The papal motorcade itself was accompanied by over a dozen horsemen on beautiful Arab stallions. They made their way through perfectly manicured lawns and wide avenues carrying Vatican and UAE flags.

Message of love and solidarity
I asked a UAE media person why there was no one lining the roads to greet Francis as he travelled through a deserted landscape: “Because it is all happening inside the sprawling Presidential Palace grounds” he answered, which cover an area of 150 hectares.

The majestic Arabian-style white palace itself boasts over 70 mosaic, glass, and golden domes. The handles on the doors of the grandiose entrance are four metres high, and the doors themselves are so heavy they function thanks to a system similar to that of a hydro-electric dam.

We all know that Pope Francis is not one for luxury and riches, but he will surely make the most of this kind of attention to boost his energy and speak powerfully to all who want to hear his message of love and solidarity for those in need.

We can only guess how loud his words will echo through these marble corridors, but I am sure the breeze of the Arabian Gulf will carry them into the peripheries of the peninsula and much further abroad.



Pope Francis addresses the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi on Monday, and confirms how, “God is with those who seek peace”.
By Seán-Patrick Lovett

Monday’s Interreligious Meeting took place within the context of the Global Conference of Human Fraternity, currently underway in Abu Dhabi. The Conference has brought together hundreds of religious leaders and scholars. It is dedicated to examining interfaith dialogue, religious freedom, combatting extremism, and promoting peace.

All of these themes were present in Pope Francis’ discourse, which he delivered at the Founder’s Memorial, before some of the highest authorities in the United Arab Emirates, and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Pope Francis began by describing himself as “a believer thirsting for peace”.

Speaking about the Interreligious Meeting itself, the Pope continued: “We are here to desire peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace”.

The Ark of Fraternity
Referencing the biblical story of Noah, the Pope suggested that, in order to safeguard peace, we too “need to enter together as one family into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world”. This means acknowledging, “God is at the origin of the one human family”. “No violence can be justified in the name of religion”, he said.

“Religious behavior”, said Pope Francis, “needs continually to be purified from the recurrent temptation to judge others as enemies and adversaries”. The “perspective of heaven”, he said, “embraces persons without privilege or discrimination”.

Expressing his “appreciation” for the commitment of the United Arab Emirates “to tolerating and guaranteeing freedom of worship, to confronting extremism and hatred”, the Pope then posed the question: “How do we look after each other in the one human family?”

The Courage of Otherness
Pope Francis proposed what he called “the courage of otherness”: recognizing the freedom and fundamental rights of others. “Without freedom”, he said, “we are no longer children of the human family, but slaves”.

Religious freedom, he continued, is not just freedom of worship: it means seeing the other as “a child of my own humanity whom God leaves free, and whom no human institution can coerce, not even in God’s name”.

Dialogue and Prayer
Pope Francis then turned to the importance of dialogue and prayer. Prayer, he said, “purifies the heart from turning in on itself. Prayer of the heart restores fraternity”.

Encouraging religions to “exert themselves with courage and audacity” in building paths of peace: “We will either build the future together”, he said, “or there will be no future”.

Education and Justice
In order to fly, continued Pope Francis, peace requires “the wings of education and justice”. Investing in culture, he said, “encourages a decrease of hatred and a growth of civility and prosperity”, because “education and violence are inversely proportional”.

The Pope again encouraged religious leaders to be “the voice of the least”, to “stand on the side of the poor”, to be “vigilant warnings to humanity not to close our eyes in the face of injustice”.

The desert that flourishes
Using the image of the “desert that surrounds us”, Pope Francis spoke of the United Arab Emirates as “an important crossroads” between East and West, North and South.

While praising the way the “desert has flourished” and become what he called “a place of development”, the Pope also warned of the “indifference” that risks converting “flourishing realities into desert lands”.

Pope Francis provided examples of this indifference in failing to “care about the future of creation”, or “about the dignity of the stranger”. A fraternal “living together, founded on education and justice, a human development built upon a welcoming inclusion and on the rights of all: these are the seeds of peace which the world’s religions are called to help flourish”.

Demilitarizing the human heart
Pope Francis concluded with a criticism of the arms race and an appeal to “demilitarize the human heart”.

“War cannot create anything but misery”, he said. “Its fateful consequences are before our eyes”. Here, the Pope mentioned specifically “Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Libya”.

“Our being together today is a message of trust”, said the Pope, not to “surrender to the floods of violence and the desertification of altruism. God is with those who seek peace”.


Interim press office director Alessandro Gisotti made the following statement about the Fraternity document signed this evening in Abu Dhabi:

The Document on “Human Fraternity for world peace and living together”, signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, represents an important step forward in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims and is a powerful sign of peace and hope for the future of humanity. The Document is a vibrant appeal to respond with good to evil, to reinforce interreligious dialogue and to promote mutual respect in order to block the road to those who add fuel to the fire of the clashes between civilizations.

At Abu Dhabi, Francis and Al-Tayyib have together indicated a way of peace and reconciliation on which not only Christians and Muslims can walk, but all people of good will.

The Document is courageous and prophetic because it confronts, and calls by name, the most urgent issues of our day on which those who believe in God are encouraged to question their own conscience and to confidently assume their own responsibility so as to give life to a more just and united world. With unambiguous words, the Pope and the Grand Imam declare that no one is ever authorized to exploit God’s name to justify war, terrorism or any other form of violence.

In addition, they affirm that life must always be safeguarded and, at the same time, that the rights of women are to be fully recognized, and every discriminatory practice in their regard rejected.

Before humanity, wounded by so many divisions and ideological fanaticisms, the Pontiff and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar demonstrate that promoting a culture of encounter is not a utopia, but is the necessary condition for living in peace and leaving for future generations a better world than the one in which we live.


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”.


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.


The Apostolic Vicariate for Southern Arabia ( The Apostolic Vicar is Archbishop Paul Hinder, OFM Cap.

When you go to, 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
Catholics 998,500
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: ( 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.


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.


Stay tuned to Joan’s Rome this weekend as I will be offering a fact-filled column on the papal trip to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) with information about the lives of Christians in these Muslim-majority countries, and some interesting statistics and links.


This weekend, for what is normally the interview segment of Vatican Insider, I’ve prepared a Special on the famous scavi in Vatican City just below St. Peter’s Basilica. I had a once in a lifetime experience in 2013 and share that with you this weekend because it is directly related to this Special.

In fact, one of the most special visits you will make in the Eternal City, and possibly all of Italy, is to the scavi in Vatican City. Scavi is Italian for excavation and I am referring to the pre-Constantine necropolis – city of the dead – or burial area beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, a necropolis that brings us to the tomb of the first Pope, St. Peter. I mention Constantine as he became the Western emperor in 312 and the sole Roman emperor in 324. Constantine was also the first emperor to adhere to Christianity. He issued an edict in February 313 that protected Christians in the empire and converted to Christianity on his deathbed in 337.

Listen carefully to the advice I give on how to apply for a scavi visit, what is allowed and not allowed during the visits, etc. Most of what you’d need to know is also right here:

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes).

Here’s a link to last week’s Vatican Insider:


The Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates says the first Papal visit to the Arabian Gulf confirms UAE’s longstanding record of acceptance, coexistence and inclusion. Pope Francis leaves Sunday for the UAE.


When His Holiness Pope Francis arrives in Abu Dhabi next week, it will be the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Gulf. While this represents a milestone event in its own right, it is also a powerful testament to the longstanding values of acceptance, coexistence, inclusivity, tolerance and humanity that are embedded in the very core of the United Arab Emirates. Since the UAE’s foundation, the rights and liberties of all creeds, sects and beliefs have been safeguarded. Our constitution protects freedom of spiritual expression and explicitly prohibits any form of discrimination based on religion or race.

Pope Francis will find a country where over one million Christians practice their religion without hindrance alongside a majority Muslim population. Throughout the UAE, over forty churches welcome believers for prayers next door to Mosques, as well as Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Temples. The UAE’s acceptance of all religions is an expression of our leadership’s commitment to an open society, one that welcomes people representing over 200 nationalities and ethnicities to work, live and thrive within our borders. This generous attitude toward others is a core tenet of our values, a key characteristic of our culture and a fundamental pillar of the vision of our founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan. He realized that both his country and the wider region would benefit by building bridges and making cultural connections with the international community. This philosophy underpinned a foreign policy that seeks to create partnerships promoting prosperity around the world, based on mutual respect. And it is mirrored by a domestic policy that treats differing cultures equally.

In this spirit, when the remains of a seventh century Christian monastery were discovered on Sir Bani Yas Island in 1992, Sheikh Zayed insisted that it be preserved both as a relic of shared spiritual history and a present day, potent symbol of cross-cultural harmony.

The UAE first established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 2007, and, since then, relations with the Catholic Church have only strengthened. A high level visit to the Vatican followed in 2016 by HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Then, last year, HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, hand delivered the invitation for Pope Francis to make his historic visit to the UAE.

During his visit, which will include a public mass, the Pope will meet with Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and the chairman of the Council of Muslim Elders. Bringing together the spiritual leaders of the Sunni and Catholic faiths, this meeting will demonstrate a shared commitment to the principles of mutual respect, and peaceful coexistence.

Coming in the “year of tolerance”, the papal visit helps define what we mean by this term. The visit reinforces the UAE’s ethos of active inclusiveness and reminds us that tolerance is not a passive state, but requires constant, consistent action. It is the same principle that drives our focus on a fairer society, where gender balance within our leading institutions is being realized by being prioritized.

It is in this context that we should view next week’s landmark events. By hosting Pope Francis, we are sending a message to all those living among us, regardless of creed or culture, that they should not merely feel accepted, but are welcomed as active participants and celebrated for the positive contribution they make to the UAE.

The UAE is made stronger by the diversity of the communities that have chosen to make our country their home. In embracing this diversity, the UAE will continue to prosper, extend a positive influence throughout the wider region and encourage peaceful coexistence globally.

The Author is UAE Minister of State, H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber


Did you hear about this great real estate deal in Sicily! “Local officials on southern Italy’s island of Sicily have put dozens of hilltop homes on the market for €1 ($1.29 USD). Yes, that translates to just over one American dollar – for villas with panoramic views of the Mediterranean on a fertile patch of land dubbed the “Earthly Paradise.” This shocking real estate proposition is aimed at reviving a community that, like many other rural spots in Italy, has suffered from depopulation in recent years as locals relocate to metropolitan areas.”

What’s the catch? Maybe a lot of us should get together and do this!


In a video message sent on Thursday, Pope Francis greets the people of the United Arab Emirates, and looks forward to marking a new step in the history of inter-religious relations.
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis travels to Abu Dhabi from February 3 to 5 to participate in an inter-religious meeting and to celebrate Mass.

In his video message, the Pope said he is looking forward to visiting the UAE, calling it “a land that seeks to be a model of coexistence, human brotherhood, and encounter between different civilizations and cultures”.

In the UAE, the Holy Father said, many people “find a safe place to work and live freely, while respecting diversity.”

Gratitude for invitation
Pope Francis thanked the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, for inviting him to participate in an interreligious meeting on “Human Brotherhood”.

He then expressed his gratitude to other UAE Authorities for their “generous hospitality and fraternal welcome”.

“I thank my friend and dear brother the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and all those who aided in the preparation of the meeting, for their courage and desire to affirm that faith in God unites and does not divide,” he said.

Faith brings people closer
Pope Francis said faith in God brings people closer despite their differences, and “distances us from hostility and aversion.”

The Pope said he looks forward to writing “a new page in the history of relations between religions, confirming that we are brothers and sisters, even though we are different.”

Finally, Pope Francis called the UAE “a land of prosperity and peace, a land of sun and harmony, a land of coexistence and encounter”. And he invited the people of the United Arab Emirates to pray for him.

To listen to video as Pope speaks in Italian, with several words in Arabic:



As you know, Pope Francis started a new catechesis at his weekly general audiences, focussing on the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, after discussing the Ten Commandments.

It will be interesting to follow these catecheses as I’m sure the Holy Father will parse each phrase of the prayer, also known as the Prayer of Seven Petitions, studying and explaining one phrase at a time. He did this with several of the Ten Commandments and on other, similar occasions.

Based on a number of rumors I’ve heard and articles I’ve seen, the most interesting phrase the Pope would explain may well be “lead us not into temptation.”

Vaticanista Sandro Magister, in a post today on his “Settimo Cielo” column, wrote that, in the November Italian Bishops’ plenary session, Francis “ordered them to replace the petition ‘and lead us not into temptation’ in the “Our Father” at Mass, because in his judgment it is “not a good” translation of the text of the Gospel.

He added: “The assembly was held behind closed doors, and at the end of the work only the result of the discussion was released, with the passing of the new formula: “and do not abandon us to temptation.”

It seems, writes Magister, “When the question was put to discussion in the hall, on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 14, a few bishops spoke out in defense of the traditional version, asking that it be kept alive and if anything explained better to the faithful, instead of being changed.

“In effect, the words ‘e non ci indurre in tentazione’ – on a par with the English version in use in the United States: “and lead us not into temptation” – are an exact reproduction of the Latin translation still in effect in liturgical chant: “et ne nos inducas in tentationem,” which in turn is strictly faithful to the original Greek: “kai me eisenénkes hemás eis peirasmón.”

What most interested me were Magister’s words “Francis ordered them to replace the petition ‘and lead us not into temptation’ in the “Our Father” at Mass….”

Does this mean that as we pray the Our Father outside of Mass, for example in the rosary, we can keep the traditional words, “lead us not into temptation” but that in Mass the prayer will be changed?

Stay tuned to the weekly general audiences!


Pope Francis on Thursday released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for December: “In the service of the transmission of faith”.
In his prayer intention for the month of December 2018, Pope Francis calls us to pray that people who are involved in the service and transmission of faith may find, in their dialogue with culture, a language suited to the conditions of the present time, in their dialogue with people’s hearts, and above all, by listening much.

The full text of his intention follows:

If you want to share your faith through the word, you have to listen much and carefully.
Let us imitate the style of Jesus, who adapted himself to the people He had in front of Him so as to bring God’s love to them.
Let us pray that people, who are involved in the service and transmission of faith, may find, in their dialogue with culture, a language suited to the conditions of the present time, in their dialogue with people’s hearts, and above all, by listening much.

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity.


The Vatican announced that Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to the United Arab Emirates in February to participate in an interfaith meeting.
By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

Pope Francis will visit Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates from 3 to 5 February 2019 to attend an interfaith meeting on “Human Fraternity”.

Greg Burke, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, said on Thursday that the visit highlights Pope Francis’ commitment to building a culture of encounter.

The theme of the visit, Burke explained, is “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”.

“That’s the Pope’s intention in going to the United Arab Emirates. How all people of goodwill can work for peace will be a major topic on this trip” he said.

Burke added that like the Pope’s 2017 apostolic journey to Egypt, this visit “shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to inter-religious dialogue”.

Pope Francis visiting the Arab world, he concluded, “is a perfect example of the culture of encounter”.

A press release published by the Vatican Press Office specified that the Pope’s visit comes in response to the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and to the invitation of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates.

Pope Francis has taken his name from St. Francis of Assisi, a saint who has been a shining example of putting into practice the words of Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) The peace of God heals all forms of hostility within the human person and accompanies the Good News proclaimed by Jesus Christ of a God who reconciles the world to himself. The theme, taken from the opening words of the Prayer of Peace of St. Francis, expresses our own prayer that the visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates may spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of good will.

LOGO: The logo of the visit is a dove bearing an olive branch. The colours of the dove, white outlined in yellow, are taken from the colours of the Vatican Flag. The colours of the flag of the United Arab Emirates are incorporated into the body of the dove, symbolising the visit of the Pope to the country as a herald of peace


Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here is a special prayer:

O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

I returned yesterday from the States and, although I did not write a column, I did post some things on Facebook and also did some work preparing this week’s edition of “Vatican Insider,” as you will see below.

It was quite an exciting trip back to Rome as the USA Water Polo team was on the plane and one of players, Bret Bonanni, was seated right next to me. As I had done, he “upgraded,” so to speak, to Economy Plus seats on our United flight as these seats give you a bit more leg room. If you’ve ever watched water polo, you know the players are tall, broad-shouldered and long-legged so more room is a must, when possible, on flights.

The team competes in Rome (first game underway as I write), then spends five days in Croatia, followed by matches in Milan and then home to California.

Bret and I had some great time to talk and I learned a great deal about him, the team and water polo. Before yesterday I could have written what I know about this sport on the proverbial head of a pin. His family is Italian, as you can see from the name, and his folks attend every match possible. In fact, they are in Rome and will go to Croatia and they have invited me to dinner on Monday. Bret asked how to attend Mass in St. Peter’s and how the team could see some of the Vatican on their free day next Monday so I am working on that.

Some of the crew – believe it or not! – recognized me from EWTN and we had nice chats about Rome, the Vatican, etc. Years ago, the father of one of the flight attendants arranged, through a fiend, for her to attend a Wednesday general audience and, to her amazement, she was in a special seat and got to meet St. John Paul.  Before the flight was over, several attendants took pix of us with their cell phones.

That’s one way to make a long flight short!


Tune in this week to “Vatican Insider” for the interview segment where I highlight the plight of Christians in Iraq as I talk to my friend, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region in norther Iraq. Abp. Warda talks about the effects of terrorism, especially ISIS, on the country and on Christians in particular, and the plight of refugees as they flee to Kurdistan for safety.

We spoke in Rome at the Pontifical Oriental Institute after a Chaldean priest defended his doctoral thesis. Just a heads up because we had our conversation in the Insitute’s garden and you’ll hear a bit of background conversation as guests gather for a reception.

Here are some photos I took that evening:  Listening to the defense:


Addressing the future doctoral candidate and panel of judges:



After our interview in the garden:


In the U. S., you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (U.S. stations listed at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


Probably because I just returned from a trip to Chicago and spent sone time in airports, I was delighted by Pope Francis’ talk today to chaplains at the 16th World Seminar of Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members. Meetings such as this one, now underway in Rome, are promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, The theme this year was: “Evangelii Gaudium: What Support for the Pastoral Care of Airport Chaplaincy?”


The Pope told his guests that the airport chaplaincy is called to be a place of unity in diversity for all categories of people. Airports seem like cities within cities, he said, “where multiple realities intertwine and overlap. As a big city, the airport is cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and multi-religious and you, chaplains and chaplaincy members, are immersed in the life of this unique community.”

Fr. Mike Zaniolo at interfaith chapel at O’Hare airport:


The Pope said he knows airports are a meeting place for many people who travel for business, tourism or other reasons. He underscored how special care and attention should be shown to transiting migrants and refugees, children and the elderly. Francis also underlined the importance of chaplains in times of tragic situations such as accidents or hijackings when they are called on to provide support, comfort and encouragement.

Even at airports, he noted, “Christ the Good Shepherd wants to take care of his sheep through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” He urged chaplains “to work to ensure that airports are places where there is room for love and dialogue, which promotes solidarity between people and preserves a peaceful social climate.”

I discovered a fascinating website for travelers who want a chapel:


In the event you are a soccer fan and have been following the FIFA corruption story, and if you also follow Vatican news and Pope Francis’ establishment of Scholas Occurrentes, here is – in part – an interesting story from Bloomberg:

The Vatican suspended an agreement to receive a donation from the Copa America soccer tournament after FIFA was hit by a corruption investigation that implicated organizers of the event.

Scholas Occurrentes, an educational organization created by Pope Francis in 2013 to promote social integration through sports, put on hold an accord it reached in April with South American soccer’s regional body Conmebol, it said in a e-mailed statement. As per the agreement, Scholas would get $10,000 per goal and saved penalty shot during this year’s edition of South America’s top soccer competition, which Conmebol organizes.

“Scholas will abstain from receiving any funds until the ongoing judicial investigation comes to a conclusion,” the organization said. “We believe the current investigations are important to protect the integrity of the institutions and soccer.”

Conmebol didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the decision. The Pope is from Argentina, which is a 7-4 favorite to win the tournament at U.K.-based William Hill.

Venezuelan Rafael Esquivel, a member of FIFA’s disciplinary committee, was among the nine officials of soccer’s governing body and five corporate executives indicted on May 27 and arrested at the hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich. He was in the Conmebol delegation that signed the per-goal donation agreement on April 21 at the Vatican, according to a Scholas news release at the time.


I posted this on facebook as well – a story fron Vatican Radio:

Abu Dhabi – A new Catholic church dedicated to Saint Paul was inaugurated today, Friday, June 12, in Mussaffah, in the presence of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State.


The day before, the initial opening ceremony was also attended by the Minister for Culture Nahyan bin Mubarak, who in his speech stressed that the opening of a new church highlights the “religious tolerance” of national leaders, while Cardinal Parolin noticed how the consecration and dedication of a new church also represents “a sign of vitality” of the local church community, and Bishop Paul Hinder, OFM, apostolic Vicar for South Arabia, expressed gratitude “for the stability and the peace that we enjoy in this Country”.

The UAE  – United Arab Emirates – is home to about 900,000 Catholics: the community is made up of immigrant workers who mostly come from other Asian countries, in particular the Philippines and India.

The new Catholic church, the second built in the country – where today Cardinal Parolin celebrated the first Mass, with the rites of consecration and dedication, before thousands of faithful – will offer its pastoral service primarily to the more than 60,000 Catholics residing in the region that includes the towns of Mussaffah, Mohammed bin Zayed City and Khalifa City. The church will celebrate Masses in English, Arabic, Malayalam and Tagalog.

During Mass – concelebrated by Bishops Hinder and Camillo Ballin MCCJ, Apostolic Vicar of North Arabia – Cardinal Parolin also recalled “the good will of past and present rulers, for their generosity in providing the land for the construction of new churches in the country.”

The permission granted by local authorities for the construction of new places of worship – said the Vatican secretary of State – is “a concrete sign of hospitality that the Emirates has now shown towards Christians,” and testifies to their commitment in favor of “a society based on coexistence and mutual respect.” The church was built on land granted by the municipality of Abu Dhabi, on the orders of local authorities.

“The Christians who live in this country – said Cardinal Parolin on Thursday – need opportunities to grow in their faith and witness it. My message to the Christian community is that may they be supported in their desire to grow in faith and to be charitable to others.”