Coptic pope holds mass in Abu Dhabi

This is the first time that Pope Tawadros II has visited the UAE.
Worshippers packed St Antonious Coptic Orthodox Church in Abu Dhabi yesterday for a mass conducted by Pope Tawadros II. Ravindranath K / The National
Worshippers packed St Antonious Coptic Orthodox Church in Abu Dhabi yesterday for a mass conducted by Pope Tawadros II. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Thousands turned out to welcome the Coptic pope at a mass in Abu Dhabi.

Staff at the St Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church in Al Mushrif had to place TV screens in adjacent halls to accommodate the number of visitors yesterday.

Among those who attended was Ihab Imam Hamouda, Egyptian ambassador to the UAE.

This is the first time that Pope Tawadros II has visited the UAE. It is also the first time he has conducted mass in an Arab country outside Egypt since he became leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in November 2012.

Members of the community expressed their excitement about the visit.

“It is really unbelievable. Such a pleasant surprise for us and a blessing,” said Miray Zaki, 30, a Government employee, who said that the visit had been announced only a week ago.

Ms Zaki, who was born in Abu Dhabi and lives in the capital, arrived at the church with her parents at 5.30am to secure a seat for the mass, which started at 7am.

“Some people were queueing since 3am,” she said. “Many people came from Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah.”

“I am really very happy, we have been waiting for him,” said Maryam Taufik, 27, an English-language teacher and a mother of two.

“This is the first time to see him face to face. Before it was always on the TV,” said Maryam Ghabrial, 36, an employee at an engineering company, who was born in the UAE. She was attending with her parents, cousin and friends.

“I am very happy,” said Milad Girgis, 30, a draftsman, who has been living in the capital for six years.

“I cannot explain how I feel – we are so excited. Everybody is so excited. Everyone wants to shake his hand,” said an Abu Dhabi resident of 36 years. “It was a surprise for us.”

Pope Tawadros arrived on Friday and gave a lecture at the Al Raha Beach Theatre.

He praised the President, Sheikh Khalifa, and said his visit reflected the strong and warm relations between the two sides.

He is scheduled to meet a number of high-ranking UAE officials.

On Sunday, Pope Tawadros is scheduled to meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. The pope’s visit ends on Wednesday.

vtodorova@thenational.ae

Published: May 10, 2014 04:00 AM

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