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VAT­I­CAN CITY: Pope Fran­cis, who has made boost­ing ties be­tween Chris­tian­ity and Is­lam a cor­ner­stone of his pa­pacy, will visit Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emi­rates in Fe­bru­ary, the Vat­i­can said Thurs­day.

The pon­tiff was in­vited to the ma­jor­ity-mus­lim coun­try by both Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed Al-nahyan and the lo­cal Catholic church.

Fran­cis will take part in an in­ter­na­tional “in­ter­faith” meet­ing dur­ing the trip, which will run from Fe­bru­ary 3 to 5.

The 81-year old has al­ready vis­ited sev­eral Mus­lim coun­tries, in­clud­ing Tur­key in 2014, Azer­bai­jan in 2016 and Egypt in 2017.

The Vat­i­can said the theme for the Abu Dhabi trip was summed up in the phrase “make me a chan­nel of your peace” -- a quote from Saint Fran­cis of As­sisi, the pope’s name­sake.

The hope was the visit would “spread in a spe­cial way the peace of God within the hearts of all peo­ple of good will,” it said.

“This visit, like the one to Egypt, shows the fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance the Holy Fa­ther gives to in­ter-re­li­gious di­a­logue,” spokesman Greg Burke said.

“Pope Fran­cis vis­it­ing the Arab world is a per­fect ex­am­ple of the cul­ture of en­counter,” he added.

The UAE prides it­self on its re­li­gious tol­er­ance and cul­tural di­ver­sity, and most Gulf Arab states have long al­lowed Chris­tians to wor­ship in churches.

Nearly 80 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of the UAE is Mus­lim, while Chris­tians con­sti­tute around nine per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Catholic News Agency.

Many of the Catholics are work­ers from Africa, Bangladesh, In­dia, Pak­istan and the Philip­pines, though some are lo­cals.

The UAE trip will come head of a visit in March to Mo­rocco.

Pope Fran­cis moved quickly af­ter his elec­tion in 2013 to make over­tures to Jews and Mus­lims, invit­ing two old friends from Buenos Aires -- a rabbi and a Mus­lim pro­fes­sor -- on a trip to the Mid­dle East where he con­demned re­li­gious ha­tred.

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