Pope Francis has arrived in Abu Dhabi. Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan greeted the Pope as he stepped off the plane and onto Emirati soil on Sunday.
The Holy Father's arrival marks the very first time a Pope has set foot on the Arabian Peninsula.
The theme of the historic visit is “Make me a channel of your peace”, and it carries with it an urgent appeal to the region and to the world to pursue values of peaceful coexistence and overcome prejudice and allegiance to divisive ideologies, sects, and political parties.
According to Vatican News, like the dove carrying an olive branch on the journey's official logo, Pope Francis sets foot in the Gulf region as a herald of peace with a message of hope for the future of mankind.
“The Pope’s visit to the UAE will prompt people of all faiths across the world to make the Emirates a permanent pilgrim centre, demonstrating the peaceful coexistence of different religions in one society,” Bishop Mesrob Sarkissian, Catholicosate Vicar in the UAE Armenian Church, told Gulf News.
“The world should make the UAE a permanent pilgrim location for all faiths to mark respect for the country’s religious tolerance,” he said.
The Bishop said he was very excited, as he will be meeting Pope Francis for the third time.
“This in is the most important occasion my six years living here in the UAE,” he said.
Sarkissian attended meetings with the Pope in the Vatican in 2014 and in Armenia in 2016.
“I was very surprised to experience Pope Francis’ humility and ability to touch the hearts of people he meets. He is the people’s Pope,” he said of those two previous meetings.
“Even as clergy belonging to the Orthodox family, we have a lot to learn from the Pope by taking examples from him.”
The Armenian church in the UAE has two centres of worship, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, catering to around 12,000 Armenians. The church’s supreme head is the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, based in Antelias, Lebanon.
The first Armenian Church was opened in Sharjah in 1998 and the second one was opened in Abu Dhabi in 2014.