Feb. 3 (UPI) — Pope Francis arrived in the United Arab Emirates Sunday, where he will embark on a 3-day trip as the first pope to visit an Arab Gulf state

He arrived at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport where he was greeted by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, grand imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University, The National reported.

“With great happiness, we welcome the arrival of my dear UAE guests. Pope Francis Pope of the Catholic Church and the virtue of Imam Ahmed Tayeb Sheikh of Al-Azhar al-Sharif,” bin Zayed wrote on Twitter. “The flourishing of love, tolerance and harmony instilled the thoroughbred in this good land.”

Before his arrival in UAE, Pope Francis wrote on Twitter that he was visiting the country “as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together, and to travel paths of peace together.”

During a video address Thursday, Pope Francis described the UAE as “a land that seeks to be a model of coexistence, human brotherhood and encounter between different civilizations and cultures.”

Most of the UAE’s population is Muslim, but the country contains about 1.2 million Christians, most of which are expatriates from India and the Philippines.

Pope Francis will spend three days in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, where he will attend an interreligious conference with Jewish and Christian leaders.

He will also host a papal mass at the Zayed Sports City on Tuesday. The UAE declared Tuesday a holiday for those attending the mass, which is projected to be the single largest gathering the country with about 135,000 expected attendees.


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