Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, began a historic visit to the UAE on Monday when the Alitalia plane he was flying in touched down at 9.50pm at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.
The visit marks a new beginning in relations between the UAE and the Vatican as Pope Francis become the first Pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula.
Speaking to the media briefly on Papal flight AZ4000 from Fiumicino airport in Rome, the Pope said: “This morning I heard that it was raining in Abu Dhabi, which people there see as a sign of blessing.”
The 83-year-old pope has made the journey of about 4,700km on the invitation of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
Earlier on the Papal flight, Pope Francis went around meeting and shaking hands with all the journalists covering the Apostolic journey. He spent about half an hour speaking to everyone at the back of the plane. Over the next two days, a hectic schedule awaits the Pope.
On Tuesday, he will be officially welcomed by Shaikh Mohammed. He will attend the Global Conference on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi along with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al Tayeb.
On Tuesday, he will celebrate mass in Zayed Sports City Stadium where about 120,000 people are expected to attend.