We’ve got a ticket to the pope… and a day off

Dubai’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church has the most number of parishioners compared to the other eight churches in the UAE. (AFP)
Updated 31 January 2019

We’ve got a ticket to the pope… and a day off

  • At least 135,000 tickets will be distributed to parishioners to attend the papal mass on Feb. 5
  • There are 1 million Catholics living in the UAE

DUBAI: Thousands of Catholics have been queuing for hours outside UAE churches, eagerly waiting to collect their tickets for Tuesday’s historic papal mass.

Pope Francis will be the first pontiff to visit the Gulf peninsula when he arrives in Abu Dhabi late on Sunday night at the presidential airport.

And on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 he will lead a mass before 135,000 worshippers at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in the UAE capital.

As the big day approaches, thousands of Catholics have been queuing outside Catholic churches across the country to pick up their tickets.

The ticket will not only grant the thousands of faithful access to the papal mass in and around the stadium, but also a day off work.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization announced that anyone with a ticket would be entitled to the extra day’s leave.

The decision “underlines the UAE’s ongoing dedication to facilitating interfaith dialogue which also coincides with the Year of Tolerance,” a statement from the ministry said.

Getting the ticket has required a certain level of patience, determination, and a true commitment, which many have been prepared to make.

“There was already a long line by around 4:30 p.m., even though ticket distribution started later at 6 p.m.,” said church volunteer Lucy Pascua, who was guiding the crowds at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai on Tuesday.

Approximately 36,000 tickets have to be distributed to individuals by the end of Friday, Pascua said.

There are 1 million Catholics living in the UAE according to estimates by the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia (AVOSA), the official church jurisdiction in charge of UAE, Oman, and Yemen.

With a limit of 135,000 tickets for Tuesday’s mass, there are many people who will not be able to attend.

To ensure that the tickets were fairly distributed names were selected from a draw – but in some cases this has led to only one member of a family being granted access to the mass.

“I was here yesterday to claim my ticket. Now, I’m with my husband, and we hope we could also get a ticket for him,” Filipina, Lovely Medina told Arab News.

Medina said she had previously queued for four hours to collect her ticket.

“I’ve been in the UAE for five years, but I’ve never been to Abu Dhabi. Now I’m going there, and I’m going to see the pope,” added the 28-year-old Filipina.

Bipin from India, said he had not expected to get three tickets – one for each member of his family.

“I would never get this chance again in my life, so I’m really happy, especially that I’ll be with my wife and child,” he said.

Those who won’t be able to attend at the venue are still able to watch the pope’s historic mass online and at venues set up by the various churches.


Emotions stir in Jerusalem as HBO’s ‘Our Boys’ hits local airwaves

Updated 30 min 55 sec ago

Emotions stir in Jerusalem as HBO’s ‘Our Boys’ hits local airwaves

  • The deaths of the four youths spiraled into a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza

JERUSALEM: A new HBO series on the killing of a Palestinian youth after three Israeli teens were murdered in a deadly summer five years ago is stirring up painful memories for bereaved families on both sides of the conflict.

“Our Boys,” which premiered in Israel and the US last week, centers on Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian who was abducted near his East Jerusalem home and burned to death by three Israelis, two of them also teenagers, in July 2014.

“I wish I could reach into the screen and grab hold of my son,” Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha, told Reuters, her voice breaking, soon after watching the first two episodes of the series, a co-production of HBO and Israel’s Keshet International and produced by Movie Plus.

“The show brought me right back to the pain, to the day he was kidnapped,” she said.

Prosecutors said Abu Khdeir’s convicted killers were avenging the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens — Naftali Frankel, Gilad Sha’er and Eyal Yifrach — in the occupied West Bank two weeks earlier by members of Hamas.

The deaths of the four youths spiraled into a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

HBO’s 10-episode dramatization dissects Israel’s internal investigation into the three ultra-Orthodox Jews eventually convicted of Abu Khdeir’s murder and the frantic initial days after his parents learned of his disappearance and death.

The Hebrew- and Arabic-language series was written, directed and produced by two Jewish Israelis and an Arab Israeli, who mix documentary footage with live production to delve into the micro details they say drive the conflict.

“We live in an extremely nuanced world where wars erupt because of tiny things,” co-director Joseph Cedar, 50, said in an interview alongside collaborators Hagai Levi and Tawfik Abu Wael. “We tried to peel back the layers of this hate crime,” he said.

But some bereaved Israeli families have said the show largely glosses over the murder of the three Israeli teens, who are referenced throughout the series but not included as characters.

Two Hamas suspects in the murders were killed in a 2014 shootout and in 2015 an Israeli court sentenced a third Hamas member to three life terms for the teens’ abduction and murder.

Levi said the creators felt they had portrayed the context of Abu Khdeir’s killing. “But the crime is the story,” he said.