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The joint visit of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Mosque, Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb - top figures of the world's two biggest religions - will establish the UAE's image as a capital for global tolerance, Dr Sultan Al Rumaithi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders, said on Monday.

"The timing of Pope Francis' historic visit to the UAE to coincide with that of Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb emphasises the UAE's position as a global capital for tolerance and humanitarianism and a global meeting point for people from all over the world," Dr Rumaithi said at a Press conference to announce the Human Fraternity Meeting that will coincide with the Papal visit from February 3 to 5.

The historic visit also falls within the Year of Tolerance that is being observed by the UAE throughout 2019. "The Pope's visit marks the historic, inaugural visit of the head of the Catholic Church to the GCC. This reflects the important cultural and humanitarian role the UAE plays in the promotion of important global values such as tolerance, dialogue and positive coexistence," said Rumaithi.

"The event will take place under the theme 'Make Me a Channel of Your Peace' and it represents the purpose of Pope Francis' visit - an invitation for collaboration among all those who seek peaceful dialogue and cooperation," he added.

The Papal visit will include a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a Holy Mass, and a meeting with the Muslim Council of Elders, which is headed by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the 970-AD Mosque in Cairo and considered the highest seat of Islamic learning. The meeting will take place on February 4 at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. 

"In two weeks' time, the eyes of the world will be focused on the UAE during the historic Holy Mass, the first of its kind in the GCC," said Mansour Al Mansouri, director-general of the National Media Council. 

More than 135,000 people from across the country and around the world are expected to attend the Papal Mass at the Zayed Sports City on February 5 at 10.30am. More than 2,000 buses will transport the public to the venue and parishes have already invited those interested to register their names.

The Pope and the Grand Imam will also take part in the signing ceremony of the Abu Dhabi Declaration for Human Fraternity on February 4, which will be held at the Founder's Memorial under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE's Armed Forces. The Pope will visit the St. Joseph Cathedral in Abu Dhabi on February 5.
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