In the capital, Roman Catholics were out in numbers at St Joseph’s Cathedral to attend services and offer prayers on Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The cathedral grounds and halls were packed with families as masses were held in a wide range of languages – English, French, German, Arabic, Italian, Urdu, Spanish, Sinhala, Konkani, Malayalam, Tamil and Tagalog.
Filipina Marilou Garcia, who attends church every Friday, was there with her family to offer prayers at the Tagalog mass at noon.
“I prayed to God to guide me to the right path and give us all health and power to withstand the challenges in the workplace,” she said.
“This day is very important for me and all my family because we want to offer our thanks to God for giving us a healthy life and prosperity, and we pray that such prosperity and peace may prevail among all.”
In three different services at the church on Thursday, between 12,000 and 14,000 people were present, with similar numbers on Friday, too.
Indian Joby Puthur, who has lived in the UAE for 12 years, arrived at the church at 8.30am. “This is a three-day celebration. We pray for wellbeing for us and all,” he said.
Another worshipper was Mark Lelis, from the Philippines, who said: “Today we commemorate Jesus and pray for forgiveness for sins committed. The celebrations we have back home I miss here. We celebrate for almost a week with a series of programmes and activities.”
Meanwhile in Dubai, hundreds gathered at the overflowing St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali for eight services that took place throughout the day.
Masses were held in English, Arabic, Malayalam and Tamil and the congregation prayed for peace and love.
Clodilo Laput, from the Philippines, took a few hours off work at the nearby Jebel Ali Free Zone to attend a service.
“It’s a special day for Christians. It’s a time of reflection and recollection on one’s life and choices. I’ve been fasting, praying and repenting through the holy week,” the 54-year-old said.
Nigerian Anthonia Olayiwola, 34, took her two sons. “It’s important to instil values of faith in them. This is the day of the lord and, even though we are living in a diverse community in Dubai, I’d still like to commemorate such important occasions and I’m happy that there are places like St Francis for us to go to,” she said.
“I prayed for peace in this world. We need it more than ever.”
Services at the church will continue over the weekend, culminating on Easter Sunday, for Catholics and other denominations. The Greek Orthodox Church marks Easter Sunday on May 1.
father Gandolf, of St Joseph’s in Abu Dhabi, thanked the UAE’s leadership for gifting land for the church 50 years ago.
“Among all Christian communities this is a very important day because it’s the day when Jesus, whom we consider the son of God, died on the cross and through His test He has saved the world,” he said.
“I would like to give a message to our people to understand how much Jesus suffered for you, to give you life and you can always go to him and you find consolation, forgiveness and mercy. It’s a day of mercy of God.”
The priest said that 850,000 Catholics from more than 100 countries pray in eight parishes in the UAE, with most of them hailing from the Philippines and India.
Yesterday also marked the start of two weeks of school holidays across the UAE and airports were expecting increased traffic.
Dubai International said it was expecting more than 600,000 passengers at the weekend.
Majid Al Jawker, deputy head of operations, told The National’s Arabic sister paper, Al Ittihad: “We expect big growth in the numbers of travellers during the weekend and we are keen to help ease their travel, to answer their questions and to inform them of the airport services.”