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180,000 people attend papal mass in Abu Dhabi

Angel Tesorero /Dubai
Filed on February 5, 2019 | Last updated on February 5, 2019 at 04.56 pm
Pope Francis blesses a child at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.- AP
Pope Francis blesses a child at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.- AP

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Tolerance, was among the crowd.

It was a moment of joy and celebration as well as veneration and contemplation as Pope Francis arrived at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on February 5 morning to officiate the first-ever papal mass in the Arabian Peninsula.

Chants of "Pope Francis!" and "Viva El Papa!" reverberated inside and outside the stadium hours before the pope arrived at the stadium at 10:00am aboard the Popemobile, a specially-designed vehicle flown in from the Vatican to the UAE for the pontiff's historic three-day visit.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Tolerance, was among the crowd.

The weather was cool and sunny with the temperature hovering around 24 degrees Centigrade at midday. The mood was electrifying and people were lively despite many of them having only an hour or so of sleep.

According to authorities, close to 180,000 people of all ages from all over the UAE and neighbouring countries attended the mass. Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said the estimate was based on the 135,000 tickets issued by the local organisers as well as the throngs of people who went out on the streets to catch a glimpse of the pope as he travelled on his popemobile. The figures did not include people who went to their local parishes to hear the mass streamed live.

The stadium, with an estimated 40,000-seating capacity, opened its doors before 5:00am. Entry to the stadium was orderly, made possible by the thousands of volunteers who came to the venue the night before. More than100,000 people were also outside the stadium and watched the Mass on a giant screen - they were as jubilant as those inside.

It was also a celebration of Christian faith, perhaps, best exemplified by a little girl who jumped over the barriers and ran towards the popemobile.

According to Wam, Pope Francis ordered the vehicle to stop "so that the young child can deliver what appeared to be a letter or drawing to the head of the Catholic Church".

The stage built for the mass was simple and devoid of a large number of religious symbols at the altar - reflecting the life championed by Pope Francis, who took his papal name after Saint Francis, who abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to God.

The papal Mass was also a showcase of peace and tolerance. As Christians heard the mass, Muslim expats served as volunteers. Egyptian expat Mohammad and Omar from Syria, arrived at 8:00pm on February 4, night. They said they were able to get only a short nap but they were up and about to serve as volunteers for the mass.

angel@khaleejtimes.com


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