Pope Francis attends a farewell ceremony at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama January 27, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

 

This week’s visit by Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be his first to the Arabian Peninsula and the first of its kind to the Islamic World. While the pope has previously travelled to Muslim-majority countries, this will be the first time the head of the Catholic Church will conduct what is expected to be the largest ever open-air mass in what Muslims consider to be the most religiously significant part of the Islamic world. This in a country that, like neighboring Saudi Arabia, is governed by Sharia law. The timing of the visit coincides with a period of history where radical Islamist groups have stepped up their attacks on Christians, killing them or forcing them to flee.

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