The Pope Francis, who has made enhancing ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy, will visit Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in February, on Thursday the Vatican said.

The pontiff was invited to the Muslim majority country by both Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and the local Catholic church.

Pope Francis will take part in an international “interfaith” meeting during the trip, which will run from February 3rd to 5th. The 81 years old has already visited several Muslim countries including Turkey in 2014, Azerbaijan in 2016 and Egypt in 2017.

The Vatican assumed the theme for the Abu Dhabi trip was summed up in the phrase “make me a channel of your peace” a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake.

The hope was the visit would spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of good will, it  was said.

“This visit, like the one to Egypt, expressions the essential importance the Holy Father gives to inter-religious dialogue,” spokesman Greg Burke said.

“Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter,” he additionally said.

The UAE prides itself on its religious broad-mindedness and cultural diversity, and most Gulf Arab states have long endorsed Christians to worship in churches.

Closely 80 per cent of the population of the UAE is Muslim, though Christians constitute around nine per cent, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Countless of the Catholics are workers from Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, however some are locals.

The UAE trip would come ahead of a visit in March to Morocco.

The Pope Francis moved quickly after his election in 2013 to make overtures to Jews and Muslims, inviting two old friends from Buenos Aires; a rabbi (The Jewish scholar and teacher) and a Muslim professor on a trip to the Middle East where he condemned religious hatred.


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