Papal visit: Thousands gather for Pope Francis's Mass in Abu Dhabi - as it happened

The historic occasion at Zayed Sports City draws his three-day trip to a close

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At the Founder's Memorial: Pope Francis condemns violence in God's name

At Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: the visit in pictures

Foundation stone signed: New church and mosque to be built in Abu Dhabi

History was made on Sunday when the wheels of Pope Francis's flight from Rome touched down in Abu Dhabi. He has since attended the Presidential Palace, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and spoke at an interfaith meeting at the Founder's Memorial.

Here you will find live coverage of the Pope's visit from The National's reporters across the UAE, as it happens. All times UTC+4


16:46 The best moments from Pope Francis's UAE visit

As Pope Francis continues his journey back to Rome, reflect on the best moments from his visit to the UAE – of which there are many.

From signing the Human Fraternity Document to his historic visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, there are plenty of memories to look back on.

And with that, this blog will now be closed, but the coverage will continue. Go to our Pope in the UAE page for all the latest videos, reaction and photographs from the Papal visit.


16:44 Pope Francis sends departure telegram to the President of the UAE

It is customary for the Pontiff to send telegrams to Heads of State of the countries over which the papal plane will be flying over as travels.

In a message to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Pope Francis said, "As I depart from the United Arab Emirates, I renew my deep appreciation to Your Highness, the government and the people of the UAE for your warm welcome and generous hospitality. I assure you of my prayers and invoke upon all of you abundant divine blessings."


16:34 Grand Imam leaves Abu Dhabi


16:15 Pope Francis speaks out against materialism and an ego-driven world

Pope Francis has spoken out against the rampant materialism afflicting the world and urged people to live simpler lives, John Dennehy writes.

The pontiff also paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Catholics living in the UAE — most of whom live far away from their family and friends.

Francis called for more understanding between the world’s religions and for people to promote peace starting in their own communities.


14:45 Papal visit a landmark in development of human relations, Sheikh Mohamed says as religious leaders depart

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said that the Papal visit was a "landmark in the development of human relations and dialogue between different cultures," as both religious leaders depart.

Sheikh Mohamed said goodbye to Dr Ahmad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, tweeting his praise for his "sincere efforts in supporting dialogue, tolerance and coexistence among different religions."

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi also tweeted his farewell to Pope Francis, "praising his role in establishing the foundations of peace, fraternity and humanitarian dialogue."


14:36 Sheikh Mohamed: UAE will continue to be a beacon of love and tolerance



13:45 Sarah Geronimo performs

The occasion wasn't over once the Mass had finished, as Filipino mega-star Sarah Geronimo took to the stage at Zayed Sports City.

You can read more on that here.


13:00 Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed says goodbye to Pope Francis

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, led Pope Francis along a long red carpet to his flight back to Rome at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Pope Francis then climbed up the stairs before turning around, waving and then bowing slightly.

The scene mirrored Pope Francis's arrival on Sunday evening when Sheikh Mohamed met him at the airport.


12:38 Pope Francis heads to Abu Dhabi Airport...for an Etihad flight

Pope Francis will now head to Abu Dhabi Airport where he will take an Etihad flight back to Rome.

The person tasked with flying that very special cargo? Captain Abdulla Obaid, who will welcome the pontiff on board his Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The Pope's media pool are already on board the plane taking their seats and a long red carpet has been laid out for the Pope to board the plane.


12:30 Thousands pour out of Zayed Sports City

Thousands of people are pouring out of Zayed Sports City to make their way home.

Al Bateen airport, which has been turned into a car park for school buses transporting people to the Mass, is now full of people boarding their vehicles.

Police horses have also caused a lot of amusement, with people stopping to take a photograph with them as they leave.

Attendees of Pope Francis's Mass at Zayed Sports City take pictures with police horses. Pawan Singh
Attendees of Pope Francis's Mass at Zayed Sports City take pictures with police horses. Pawan Singh


12:20 Watch Pope Francis's Mass again


12:10 The little girl who delivered a letter to the Pope

During the Pope's entrance into Zayed Sports City a little girl ran out from the crowd to deliver a very special letter.

Fortunately, the Pope's car stopped and she was able to break through the security to deliver her message.


12:04 The Mass ends

As the Mass ends, the first ever celebrated by a Pope in the Arabian Peninsula, Bishop Hinder thanks the Pope for coming and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed for making the Mass possible, eliciting an eruption of applause from the congregation.

There have been at least seven rounds of applause during the Mass, a once in a lifetime opportunity for most in attendance.


11:51 If you could not get a ticket...

More than 130,000 people are currently attending a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, but thousands of people were not able to get inside the stadium.

Hundreds of people are standing outside, listening to the service and choral music from inside the stadium.

People are now taking communion, in which a consecrated wafer is eaten in remembrance of Jesus’s death.

Before communion the congregation are encouraged to offer each other the sign of peace, shaking hands with those around them.


11:45 The most common words used in Pope Francis's Homily



11:20 A multilingual Mass

Pope Francis received emotional applause after his Homily – an unusual sight at the religious ceremony.

"When Jesus told us how to live, he didn't ask us to erect great monuments, or for extraordinary gestures. He asked one monument of us, that of our life," he said in his main speech of the service.

The Mass has also been very multi-lingual. We have heard readings and Homilies in English, Arabic, Italian, Tagalog, Latin, Korean, Konkani, Malayalam, Urdu and French.


11:00 Speaking of God's love

Addressing the congregation, Pope Francis spoke of God's love.

"A joy that no one in this world under no circumstance can take away from us. It's a joy that gives us peace amongst pain," he said.

Then, greeting those who had come to meet him, he said, "Dear brothers and sisters, in my joy to to meet you, this is the word I speak to you."

The altar at Zayed Sports City is unusually bare, with just a cross and a statue of the Virgin Mary, which are both important figures in Islam.



10:45 Visibly emotional crowds

The atmosphere in the stadium is hushed and reverential.

Members of the crowd are visibly emotional, with some tearing up at the sight of the pontiff. Prior to his arrival, they were cheering his name, chanting "we love Pope Francis".

UAE Minister for Culture Noura Al Kaabi and Minister for Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak are both at the Mass.

The first reading was by a Filipino man. It was St Paul's letter to the Philippians, read in Arabic.


10:41 Tears of joy in Dubai as Pope Francis arrives

Inside St Mary’s Church in Dubai, parishioners clapped and wept when images of Pope Francis were shown on the big screens that had been set up inside.

Polish tourists Bozena and Krzysztof Zalewski took a break from sightseeing in Dubai – in celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary - to step into the church with family and friends and watch the Pope’s Mass.

The couple were accompanied by Krzysztof’s brother, Father Ryszard Zalewski, who serves in a Polish Catholic mission in Bolton, UK.

“It’s a privilege for us to hear a Mass of the Pope,” said Father Ryszard. “We are so excited. This is so unusual to come to Dubai as tourists and watch this on a screen.”


10:30 Pope Francis arrives on altar for Mass

Pope Francis arrived at the altar to choral music. After arriving at the alter he shook a golden thurible, which sprayed incense on the altar, blessing it.

A mass of hundreds of choral singers, dressed in glistening white robes are accompanying the mass.


10:25 Stage set for Pope Francis' Mass

A simple stage has been set for Pope Francis' Mass.

The altar erected in Zayed Sports City is flanked by yellow flowers and framed by a simple white awning casting a laddered shadow.

Behind the Pope stands a simple crucifix stretching all the way to the top of the backdrop.


10:20 Pope Francis' arrival from the ground


10:04 Zayed Sports City erupts with cheers

After hours of waiting patiently, tens of thousands of the faithful erupt into cheers of adoration as the leader of their faith enters Zayed Sports City.

Flanked by guards, and arms raised in greeting, Pope Francis is being driven around the stadium in what appears to be a Mercedes G-Wagen Popemobile.


09:57 Pope Francis arrives at Zayed Sports City

Pope Francis has arrived at Zayed Sports City to cheers from a waiting crowd.

The pontiff appears to have left the Kia Soul behind and exchanged it for a Popemobile, which appears to look like a modified Mercedes open top G-Wagen.

Crowds of jubilant Christians are waving at the Pope – the first time most will have seen him in their lives – as he shares waves back.


09:50 The Mass, explained

Do you know the difference between the Eucharist and the Liturgy? Here's an explanation of the Mass, which Pope Francis will celebrate shortly.


09:43 Meet the followers who have come to see the Pope's Mass


9:37 Pope Francis leaves St Joseph's

Pope Francis has now left St Joseph's Cathedral where he will travel to Zayed Sports City to meet followers of the Catholic Church.


9:25 Choir rehearsals

Meanwhile, at Zayed Sports City the choir is rehearsing for Pope Francis' Mass, also providing entertainment for crowds who have been waiting patiently in the stadium.


9:17 Laying flowers

Surrounded by children, the Pope was handed a bouquet of flowers, which he lay at the altar of St Joseph's Cathedral.

Then, pausing for a moment, Pope Francis prayed and took in the moment, before making a sign of the cross and taking a seat on the altar.

"It is a great joy of me to visit the small churches that are spread all over the place," he said.

"The young church that is growing and sprouting ... I bless all of you and I ask you to pray for the church ... that the church will remain faithful to the Lord ... to grow in faith and in charity ... I give you the hope to go forward in the hope of the Lord," he said, before blessing the congregated followers.

As Pope Francis has been greeting followers of the Catholic Church he has been handing out red gift boxes, which are thought to contain medallions containing an image of the meeting between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malek Al Kamil.


9:12 A choral arrival

A choir sung and organ played as Pope Francis entered the church.

He greeted the congregated followers, blessing gathered women, children and men.

Outreached hands - and smartphones - greeted the Pope, capturing the moment most Catholics will never get to experience.

Many kissed the pontiff's hands as he greeted followers, while others simply said "we love you, we love you."

One elderly woman dressed in white robes threw her arms around the leader of the Catholic church, while the face of a young girl blessed by the Pope showed exactly how much it meant to her.


9:08 Pope Francis arrives at St Joseph's

To excited screams and waves from gathered children, Pope Francis arrived at St Joseph's Cathedral.

As he arrived the pontiff wound down his window and stuck out his arm to wave at the children.

Pictures, were drawn for the Pope were collected by his bodyguards as he circled the courtyard, shaking hands with excited followers.


09:02 Pope Francis to arrive at St Joseph's Cathedral

Children are waiting excitedly outside of St Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi - the seat of the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, which includes the UAE, Yemen and Oman, headed by Bishop Paul Hinder.

Resplendent in white and red choral gowns, children are chatting and giggling excitedly at the prospect of meeting the Pope.



07:15 Stay with us for live updates throughout the day

Good morning all and welcome to our live coverage on what is a tremendously exciting day.

It is , of course, the day of the Pope's public Mass at Zayed Sports City and we will have all of the latest news, video and photography.

If you want to catch up on everything that happened yesterday, you can read through our updates here.

And here's the schedule for today:

Tuesday, February 5 - Abu Dhabi to Rome

9.15am: Private visit to St Joseph's Cathedral

10.30am: Public mass at Zayed Sports City – with a homily by Pope Francis

12.40pm: Farewell at Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport

1pm: Departure by plane to Rome

5pm: Arrival at the Rome / Ciampino International Airport