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Catholics find flourishing faith life in Muslim UAE, where pope will visit

Ed Magbag of the Philippines, a project manager with a design and engineering firm who has worked in the UAE for 14 years, notes that the UAE “is like a home away from home for all Christians.”

Parishioners of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, he and his wife are active in Couples for Christ, a global lay ecclesial movement, which has about 15,000 active members in the UAE.

Pope Francis’ visit “will show the world that despite different cultures, races, religions and practices, there is respect, love and coexistence of all local people and expatriates in the UAE,” Magbag told CNS.

Magbag considers Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE as “the best gift,” that “rekindles the fire in the heart of the faithful,” who are expecting spiritual nourishment.

Like many fellow Catholics in the UAE, the Magbags cut short their vacation to their homeland to be present in the UAE for Pope Francis’ visit.

“This is one experience we must not miss,” he said. Many workers are asking for a day of leave for the Pope’s 5 February Mass at the stadium.

“Pope Francis symbolizes God’s presence on earth and so, when the Pope Francis is visiting the UAE, it is as if God is visiting his children in the Middle East, not only Christians, but our Muslim brethren as well,” Magbag added.

“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” is the theme for this papal visit, taken from the opening words of the Prayer of Peace of St. Francis Assisi, from whom Pope Francis has taken his name. The logo of the visit is a dove bearing an olive branch.

“Pope Francis is building bridges and creating an environment for peaceful dialogue to achieve peace and harmony globally,” Father Kadukkan told CNS.

“The UAE government has made huge strides by inviting Pope Francis to the country, and this is a step in the right direction to achieve tolerance, both within the Emirates as well as within the region,” the Indian priest told CNS.

The UAE government is organizing the visit with support from the Catholic Church.

Additionally, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE president, has declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance.

Approximately 1 million Catholics reside in the UAE as foreign workers, according to the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia.

They come from the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, with the majority from India and the Philippines.





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