President of the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi Ruler Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Alnahyan is said to be sending a private jet on Thursday to transport Pope Tawadros II to the UAE Friday, a church official told Anadolu news agency.
The move is said to be unprecedented in the history of Egypt. Pope Tawadros is scheduled to visit the UAE on Friday for five days.
The Pope is scheduled to meet with the President of the UAE, the church official said on condition of anonymity.
Furthermore, the agenda of the visit includes a lecture at Al Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi on Friday and the Pope’s leading of a Divine Liturgy at the St. Anthony Cathedral the next morning. The Pope will stay in Abu Dhabi until Sunday, then head for the Emirate of Sharjah, and then return to Cairo on Tuesday.
Pope Tawadros’s visit is the first of its kind to a Gulf country since he assumed the papal office in 2012. It is also considered his first papal visit to an Arab country. He only traveled to Lebanon in March with a church delegation to attend the funeral of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I.
According to date revealed by the Egyptian church in 2006, Christians in the UAE are approximately 500,000, residing mostly in Abu Dhabi, Ain, Dubai and Sharjah. The UAE does not have official figures in this regard.
Pope Tawadros II has been among the religious figures who backed the July 3 military coup against the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi.