Catholics in UAE ex­cited as they pre­pare for Pa­pal Mass

SOME HAVE BOOKED HO­TELS NEAR VENUE EVEN BE­FORE TICKET DIS­TRI­BU­TION

Gulf News - - Nation - BY JAN­ICE PONCE DE LEON Staff Re­porter

Catholic faith­fuls in the UAE are busy mak­ing plans for the highly an­tic­i­pated Pa­pal Mass next month — some have ap­plied for leave in ad­vance and booked rooms in ho­tels near the venue, while there are those who will come to Dubai from In­dia.

Pope Fran­cis will be vis­it­ing the UAE from Fe­bru­ary 3 to 5, his first visit to the GCC. Dur­ing the visit, he will cel­e­brate a land­mark mass with at the Zayed Sports City on Fe­bru­ary 5.

Around 120,000 free tick­ets will be given to parish­ioners across the UAE later this month to at­tend the live mass.

De­tails of who will get tick­ets have yet to be re­vealed but some hope­fuls have al­ready made plans, re­gard­less of whether they’ll get tick­ets or not.

Jonathan Eric De­fante, 30, a fran­chise co­or­di­na­tor in Dubai, said he has booked rooms for his fam­ily in a ho­tel 12 min­utes away from the sta­dium.

“We don’t know yet if we will get a ticket but we’ve al­ready booked ho­tel rooms for the nine of us — me, my wife and kid, plus my in-laws,” De­fante told Gulf News.

Cher­ished en­counter

De­fante is hope­ful of get­ting at least two tick­ets to give his par­ents-in-law as a gift since he has al­ready seen the pon­tiff up close three times. He said his last en­counter with Pope Fran­cis was the most spe­cial.

“In 2017, we took a chance to get the Pope’s bless­ing in per­son as new­ly­weds. It’s a cus­tom called Sposi Novelli. We were blessed to have been se­lected. On the day, he ap­proached all the cou­ples and I made sure to practise my Span­ish and said to him, ‘We’re pray­ing or you. We love you,’ in Span­ish. To which he replied in English, ‘Where are you from?’ We said we’re from Dubai and he seemed sur­prised,” De­fante said.

“He held our hands, prayed for us, and said, ‘Pray for me like you al­ways do’.”

Filipino ex­pa­tri­ate Arthur Los Banos, a PR pro­fes­sional who serves at St Fran­cis Church in Jebel Ali, is also op­ti­mistic about get­ting a ticket for him and his wife for the mass.

“I’ll be on leave be­cause this is a great op­por­tu­nity to see him even from a dis­tance. I saw ■ Pope John Paul II twice in 1981 and 1995 in the Philip­pines. This will be my first time to see Pope Fran­cis. My wife and I are ex­cited to hear him say mass on Fe­bru­ary 5,” Los Banos said.

British ex­pat Sarah Cox who serves at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai, is also look­ing for­ward to the Mass.

“[If I get tick­ets], I will at­tend with my hus­band who is also a parish­ioner. We might try and book a room,” Cox said.

In­dian ex­pa­tri­ate Arund­han Al­phones, who also at­tends St Fran­cis Church in Jebel Ali, said: “My wife and I in­tend to at­tend the High Mass and this will be our first oc­ca­sion for re­ceiv­ing God’s bless­ing in 23 years of our re­la­tion­ship. Though my wife is in In­dia, she has al­ready planned to travel to Dubai to re­ceive the bless­ing of the Pope.”

Filip­ina ex­pa­tri­ate Aileen Sal­vana, an ac­coun­tant, said she filed her leave as early as De­cem­ber and got her em­ployer’s ap­proval im­me­di­ately.

I’ll be on leave be­cause this is a great op­por­tu­nity to see him even from a dis­tance. I saw Pope John Paul II twice in 1981 and 1995 in the Philip­pines. This will be my first time to see Pope Fran­cis. My wife and I are ex­cited to hear him say mass on Fe­bru­ary 5.”

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ Dead­line for reg­is­tra­tion for St Mary’s Catholic Church — Jan­uary 15 Where to regis­ter: https://www.saint­marys­dubai.org/on­line-pro­file Dead­line for reg­is­tra­tion for St Fran­cis Church — Jebel Ali:

20

Where to regis­ter: https://stfran­cis­je­be­lali.ae/regis­ter-on­line Dead­line for non-GCC res­i­dents: Jan­uary 21

Where to regis­ter: https://uaepa­palvisit.org/non-gcc Bar-coded tick­ets may be claimed from St Joseph’s Cathe­dral Abu Dhabi or St Mary’s Church Dubai from Jan­uary 28 to Fe­bru­ary 4 be­fore 5pm.

Doc­u­ments re­quire­ment: Valid Pass­port with no GCC Res­i­dent Visa. The reg­is­tra­tion process is sim­i­lar for al­most all the churches:

Fol­low the below steps: Jan­uary

Step one: Regis­ter as a parish­ioner

Step two: Ob­tain Parish­ioner Reg­is­tra­tion ID Num­ber.

Step three: Wait for up­dates on tick­et­ing process through Church an­nounce­ments and web­site.

For more de­tails, con­tact the UAE Pa­pal visit call cen­tre on 04-317 9333

Cour­tesy: Jonathan Eric De­fante

Pope Fran­cis giv­ing his bless­ing to new­ly­wed Dubai ex­pats Jonathan Eric and Kris­tine Tara De­fante in 2017. The cou­ple were se­lected for the Sposi Novelli cus­tom at the Vat­i­can.

Cour­tesy: Arthur Los Banos

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