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How Zayed Sports City was managed for Pope Francis' Holy Mass

Vantage point TV screens and 1,500 workers were deployed for the historic papal mass attended by 180,000 worshippers

Pope Francis delivered the Holy Mass at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
© Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis delivered the Holy Mass at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.

His Holiness Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, delivered the Holy Mass to 180,000 worshippers at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City on 5 February, 2019.

Pope Francis’ historic visit came as part of a regional tour that made him the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Gulf. Details are available about how the iconic Zayed Sports City was prepared for the papal mass.

The Holy Mass, according to the UAE’s state news agency, Wam, represents the largest gathering in the UAE, with the Mass Organising Committee implementing special measures to ensure the event’s smooth operation.

Khalfan Mohammed AlMazrouei, member of the committee, said the Higher Organising Committee of the Historical Mass worked with international standards to facilitate people and logistical movements for the public event.

Delegations from the UAE and from elsewhere were received in line with a specially created plan, with separate programmes implemented to provide facilities for People of Determination and the elderly.

Director at the UAE Ministry of Presidency Affairs’ events department, Aisha Al Bakoush, said large screens were installed across the stadium to ensure people could easily view the “important event from every corner”.

The papal mass was not only the UAE’s largest public gathering, but it also marked the largest mass ever addressed by the Pope anywhere in the world. Murshid Al Rumaithi, administrative officer at the Ministry of Presidency Affairs, said the supervising committee had “undergone intensive training procedures”, with more than 1,500 workers trained to ensure the performance of religious practices, and to facilitate the easy movement of People of Determination.

Pope Francis departed from Abu Dhabi on 5 February, with HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, among the host of high-level sheikhs, ministers, and dignitaries seeing him off from the Presidential Flight.

Pope Francis departed from Abu Dhabi on 5 February, 2019.

According to a Wam report, it is customary for the pontiff to “send telegrams to Heads of State of the countries over which the papal plane” will fly. Pope Francis, in a message to President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said: “As I depart from the United Arab Emirates, I renew my deep appreciation to Your Highness, the government and the people of the UAE for your warm welcome and generous hospitality. I assure you of my prayers and invoke upon all of you abundant divine blessings.”

Zayed Sports City’s foundations were laid by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the facility is today known as a key urban landmark in Abu Dhabi. Fit-out contractor ISG completed major upgrades to Zayed Sports City Stadium in 2018. General manager for the firm’s Middle East business, Scott McCulloch, told Construction Week earlier this month that ISG was “absolutely delighted” that one of its projects had been selected to host the historic papal mass in the UAE.

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