Vatican releases schedule for Pope Francis’ trip to Dubai in December

Pope Francis meets Dr. Sultan Al Jaber Pope Francis received President-Designate of COP28 UAE Dr. Sultan Al Jaber on Oct. 11, 2023, at the Vatican. | Credit: Vatican Media

The Vatican has released the schedule for Pope Francis’ trip to Dubai in early December to attend the COP28 climate conference.

The pope will visit the United Arab Emirates’ most populous city Dec. 1–3 where he will give a speech, meet world leaders, and help launch a pavilion for faith-based engagement at the United Nations climate summit.

It will be the first time that a pope has attended the U.N.’s annual environmental meeting. Francis published the apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum last month that called climate change “one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to speak at COP28 in Dubai’s Expo City on Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. Following the speech, the pope will spend the rest of the day participating in private bilateral meetings with other attendees.

King Charles III, Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan are among some of the leaders expected to attend COP28. The UAE also extended an invitation to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier this year.

The White House has not confirmed whether President Joe Biden will travel to the summit this year, with Reuters reporting that Biden is unlikely to attend.

It will be Pope Francis’ second time traveling to the UAE. Pope Francis became the first pope to ever visit the Arabian peninsula in February 2019 when he visited the city of Abu Dhabi to promote interreligious dialogue and support the small Christian minority.

The pope will continue the theme of interreligious dialogue on his final day in Dubai by participating in the inauguration of the first “faith pavilion” at the climate conference on Dec. 3 at 9 a.m.

The faith pavilion, hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders, will serve as a hub for faith-based engagement on climate issues and serve as the venue for more than 65 sessions with religious figures, scientists, and political leaders.

At a faith summit in Abu Dhabi ahead of the conference, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and 27 leaders from more than 19 different religions, faith traditions, and denominations signed an Interfaith Declaration on Climate Action Towards COP28, which says that “our faith instills in us a sacred duty to cherish not only our human family but also the fragile ecosystem that cradles us.”

No meetings with the local Catholic population are listed on the pope’s official schedule released by the Vatican on Nov. 9. 

The pope’s 38-hour weekend trip to Dubai is limited to his participation in the climate conference with an official welcome planned at the Dubai airport upon his arrival Friday night at 8:25 p.m. and a short farewell ceremony on Sunday morning scheduled for 30 minutes before his nearly seven-hour flight departs at 10:45 a.m.

The United Nations annual climate change conference, known as the “Conference of the Parties” (COP), includes governments that have signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and/or the Paris Agreement.

The summit, held in a different country every year, is an opportunity for leaders, representing state and nonstate actors, to meet and discuss policy goals that seek to establish common — and often ambitious — goals for climate change mitigation.

Pope Francis has said that he decided to write his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ on care for our common home ahead of the COP21 summit in Paris.

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