DUBAI - Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates are praying to be among a limited number of Catholics who may take part in a mass to be led by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi on February 5.
There are more than a million Catholics in the UAE, mostly Indians and Filipinos, and only 120,000 may be accommodated, including those from nearby countries, at the Papal mass set at the Zayed Sports City next month.
The UAE government and organizers of the papal visit have set up a system where tickets will be distributed through parishes under the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia (AVOSA), which covers the UAE, Oman and Yemen.
There are eight parishes in the UAE and four parishes in Oman. Tickets will also be distributed to those from the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia (AVONA), which covers Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
“Your cooperation and grace to make Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE a success is of utmost importance. All are requested to follow the guidelines offered by the UAE Government and the UAE Papal Visit Office,” announced the Department of Communications of the UAE Papal Visit 2019.
Tickets are free and will be printed and handed over by the AVOSA Papal Visit Office to parishes under it on Sunday, January 20. Each parish will have a quota.
“Stay tuned [on] your parish websites for announcements regarding ticket distribution within the parish,” advised the organizing group.
With this quota system, the faithful in the UAE are anxious yet excited for the papal mass. The event will be streamed live on www.uaepapalvisit.org
Only those who were able to complete the parishioners’ registration form will be eligible for tickets from their respective parishes.
"I am excited to see the Pope as this will be my second time to see one. The last time was Pope John Paul II. Hopefully, I can even join and be a volunteer," said Lou Merono, a Filipino based in Dubai.
Teresita Antonio-Uy, a parishioner from St. Francis Church in Jebel Ali, Dubai, told ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau that she has rescheduled her travel to the Philippines just so she could see Pope Francis in person.
“'Yung last time kong nakita ang isang Pope ay nasa college pa ako (The last time I saw a Pope was back when I was in college) so here comes another Pope and I have the chance to see him here while I am now an overseas Filipino worker,” expressed Antonio-Uy.
“It’s a historical event that the Pope will be coming in the Middle East at the same time we are here. We will be more closer to the Pope and that he is bringing the grace of God closer,” Fr. Chito Bartolo, a priest from St Mary’s Church in Dubai, shared.
Pope Francis will be the first Catholic Pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula. He will arrive in the UAE capital city on February 3 and leave on February 5.
His visit comes in the year the UAE proclaimed as the 'Year of Tolerance,' which is aimed at strengthening the nation’s role in encouraging stability and prosperity in the region.