Worshippers pray during a mass service led by Pope Francis, at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The papal mass in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday was historic not only for being the first one in the Gulf region but also for the unique diversity of the participants.

The 180,000 participants represented more than a million Christians working and living in the UAE, a nation that is home to people from around 200 nations across the globe.

A top Italian diplomat told Gulf News that it was a rare event.

“I was in the mass, Emirati men and women were there beside me… and Muslims and Christians from across the globe. It is rare… it is a mirror of this country — presence of varieties of nationalities in every day’s harmonious life,” said Liborio Stellino, the Italian Ambassador to the UAE.

He said this harmony has reinforced the message given by the Pope.

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“In the mass, the Pope reiterated the message he gave on Monday that the religion is not divisive factor but it is for unifying the humanity.”

By hosting the Pope and organising the rare mass, the UAE has set an example for other countries, Stellino said. “Let’s hope that other nations will surprise us by emulating this example,” the ambassador added.

An Emirati official told Gulf News the diversity of participation was visible not only in the mass but also in the preparations.

“Muslims and people of other faiths also participated in the mass along with Christians. It was the same case in our preparations as well. Emiratis and expatriates — Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths [as volunteers and in other capacities] — they all worked tirelessly for many days to make it a grand success,” said Jaber Al Lamki, Executive Director of Strategic and Media Communications at the National Media Council.

“The entire efforts were exhausting… but it was an amazing experience with participation of all communities,” he said.

This proves the capacity of the UAE’s harmonious society to make great things possible, Al Lamki said.