Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

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Paul Griffiths started playing the organ at 10 years old. (Supplied)
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Griffiths uses his vacation leaves to play the organ. (Supplied)
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Girffiths will accompany the choir on Feb. 5, along with a 10-member brass ensemble. (Supplied)
Updated 01 February 2019

Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

  • CEO of Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths is the lead organist at the papal mass on Feb. 5
  • When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax

DUBAI: Better known for his role as the CEO of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths, will be playing the organ at the mass lead by Pope Francis on Tuesday, Feb. 5, before a congregation of 135,000 people at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium.
It will be the first time a Catholic Pope has visited the UAE and the wider Gulf and a first for the 61-year-old British expat.
“It’s my first time performing in a Catholic mass with such large resources, and such a huge choir,” Griffiths, who is an Anglican, told Arab News.
“It will be a most historic occasion for the UAE. It’s just the most fantastic opportunity to demonstrate peace and tolerance, and I think, in the world, we need a lot of that,” he said.
Asked if he would be able to meet the pope, he replied: “I’m not sure that that is actually possible, but if it did actually happen, it would be an astonishing opportunity.”
“But just the honor of playing the organ at a mass, which he is celebrating, that’s quite an astonishing situation.”
Griffiths joined Dubai Airports as CEO in October 2007 – a year later he led the launch of Terminal 3 – the world’s largest – at Dubai International Airport.
On June 27, 2010 he was at the forefront of the opening of the emirate’s second international airport – Dubai World Central.
But Griffiths is not just a veteran of the airport business, he started learning to play the organ when he was a child.
“I was 10 when my friend asked to me to join the church choir. At the time, I wasn’t really interested in music, but he persuaded me,” he said.
The moment he saw the church organ, he said he had a “real moment” of self-discovery.
“For about the next 10 years after I started, all I wanted to do was be a cathedral organist,” he added.
But Griffiths said his father was less enthusiastic about him pursuing music as a profession.
“He persuaded me that music was a good hobby, but a very bad profession,” he said, adding that instead he chose a career path that led him to the top of the aviation industry.
“Although I didn’t agree with my father at the time, in hindsight, it was the right decision.”
But he did not give up on music, and now Griffiths manages a schedule of concert and recital engagements, including performances that have placed him alongside major orchestras.
“I am a great believer that life is about living to the full. I try very hard to give all my time and effort to running all the airports, and in my spare time, the little that I have, I do a lot of organ practice and preparations,” he said.
Griffiths is so committed to his music that he said he uses much of his annual leave for his favorite pass-time.
“I’ve got lots of things coming up. I’m playing in the UK in May, and I’m doing two concerts in the US in June,” he revealed.
When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax.
“I can have a really tough and long day getting everything together, but when I come home, I sit at the organ and practice quite tough music, and within a couple of pages, all the troubles of the day are gone,” he said.
Griffiths is even married to a musician, Joana Marsh, who works full time as a classical composer, working with orchestras and choirs around the world. The passion for music runs in the family, as his son is also a musician, playing the French horn.
The pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi coincides with the Human Fraternity Conference – an interfaith event that will bring together religious leaders under one roof – it is also the UAE’s Year of tolerance.
Although Christian, Griffiths is not a Catholic – he is a member of the Anglican church – that blending of faiths on the same stage, he said, was “an important statement for mankind.”
“It doesn’t matter what faith or religion we are, the fact that we can come together to celebrate such a historic thing and all be together in the same place… it will remind us that despite our differences, we are all flesh and blood,” he added.


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 58 min 25 sec ago

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”