190202 Pope Francis
The pontiff’s visit to the UAE capital is set to draw thousands from both near and far. Image Credit: AFP

DAY 1: Sunday, February 3

Rome to Abu Dhabi

1pm Departure by plane from Rome / Fiumicino to Abu Dhabi

10pm Arrival at the Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport

Official Welcome

DAY 2: Monday, February 4

Abu Dhabi

12pm Welcome ceremony at the main entrance of the Presidential Palace

12.20pm Official visit to the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince at the Presidential Palace

5pm Private meeting with the members of the Muslim Council of Elders at Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque

6.10pm Inter-religious Meeting at the Founder’s Memorial

DAY 3: Tuesday, February 5

Abu Dhabi to Rome

9.15am Private visit to St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi

10.30am Holy Mass: Santa Messa in Zayed Sports City — Homily of the Holy Father

12.40pm Farewell Ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport

1pm Departure by plane to Rome

5pm Arrival at the Rome / Ciampino International Airport

Key Accomplishments

1 Inter-religious dialogue

Pope Francis has underlined the importance of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions. He has said the future for interreligious dialogue lies in the coexistence of respectful diversity, and the fundamental right to religious freedom.

2 Helped restore relations between the US and Cuba

Pope Francis worked behind the scenes to help restore diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. Former Cuba President Raul Castro publicly thanked ope Francis and the Catholic Church for their role in the talks.

3 Fight against poverty and crime

The Pope has repeatedly urged world leaders to prevent excessive spending and provide more welfare aid to those in need. He has met the imprisoned and has condemned the mafia and organised crime.

4 Stand in favour of environment

Pope Francis has spoken on the issue several times and has called on the world to become better stewards of the environment. He has not shied away from the discussion on global warming.

5 Open discussion and debate in the church

Freer exchange of views and discussions is being allowed in the church. Bishops are encouraged to speak their minds boldly and not worry about disagreeing with the Pope.


Who is Pope Francis?

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Pope Francis as a young priest with his parents. Image Credit: Supplied

He was not baptised as Francis but as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 17, 1936, to Italian immigrant parents, Mario Jose and Regina Maria. Most people think he majored in theology but he actually studied chemistry and got a chemical technician’s diploma from high school.

He took a vow as a Jesuit in 1960 at aged 24. He used to teach literature and psychology at Jesuit high schools in the mid-1960s.

It was only in 1969 when he was ordained into the priesthood. He was 32. Twenty-three years later, he was ordained as auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires before being made archbishop six years later.

He was made cardinal on February 21, 2001, and in March 2013, he was elected Pope, taking the name Francis, from St Francis of Assisi. He is the first Pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit, the 266th Pope and the 265th successor to St Peter.

Now we bring you some more fun facts that you might not know about the beloved Pope:

1 To most Argentines, football is like a religion. And like a true Argentine, his love for football is unquestionable. He remains a passionate supporter of San Lorenzo de Almagro football club.

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Pope Francis receives a jersey from football legend Diego Maradona. Image Credit: Supplied

2 His favourite food is empanada (the Argentine/Mexican version of the samosa). For healthier choices, the pope has a farm outside Rome. His favourite farm produce includes cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli. He also loves cheese and yogurt.

3 He rocked the dance floor in his youth. In his 2010 biography El Jesuita, he told authors, Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin: “I like the tango a lot, and when I was young I used to dance it.” And liked it he did! Why wouldn’t he if his dancing partner was his girlfriend? “She was one of a group of friends I went dancing with. But then I discovered my religious vocation,” the Pope said.

4 Part of his right lung was removed when he was 21 years old after contracting pneumonia.

5 True to his humble lifestyle, he lives at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (St Martha’s House) guesthouse, the first Pope in 110 years who does not live in the Papal Apartments in the Vatican.

6 His secret to deal with stress is sleep — six hours of it every night. In an interview on the Italian Catholic TV channel, he said that restful sleep is what boosts his health. “Then I sleep well, thanks to the Lord. I sleep like a log.” Source: Vatican, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic.org