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Thousands attend the first mass of the Pope in the Gulf

Tens of thousands of Catholics and several thousands of Muslims attended an unprecedented public mass presided over by Pope Francis, the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, on Tuesday in the United Arab Emirates.

About 135,000 people gathered at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi to see the Pope, who is visiting the UAE to support interfaith dialogue.

“This is one of the most important days of my life as a Christian, we are very far from the motherland, and it’s like a comfortable blanket,” said a Catholic Christian who lives in the UAE and traveled by bus in the early hours of the morning to reach the stadium.

“I will listen to what Pope Francis I will say within this time,” said the spokesman.

Around one million of the 2 million Catholics living in the Arabian Peninsula live in the UAE. Thousands of people gathered waving Vatican flags on either side of the entrance to the stadium near the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

The organizers of the same religious service said Catholic Christians from about 100 countries were expected to attend, along with some 4,000 Muslims, including government officials.

The Pope arrived in the UAE on Sunday at the invitation of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and condemned during his visit wars in the region and called for enhanced cooperation between Muslims and Christians.

The Pope entered the stadium in a white convertible, where the crowd greeted him with a haunting welcome. Another Christian who came from Sri Lanka to attend the Mass, said: “It is a holy moment that will accompany her forever.”

Emirati priests and diplomats describe the UAE as one of the most open environments in the Gulf for Christian practices permitted in church complexes with special permits.

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