>> In a region where in one country, churches are banned, Pope Francis will make history as he pays a visit to the Arabian peninsula. On Sunday, he'll arrive in the United Arab Emirates in a trip that's hoped will foster greater acceptance for Catholics across the Gulf. Some 2 million ex-patriot Catholics many from India and the Philippines would like better transport to churches in the UAE and permission to build them at all in ultra conservative Saudi Arabia.
Reuters correspondent Sylvia Westall says it will be interesting to see what topics the Pope raises during his visit.>> There are some topics which are important to Pope Francis. Which may be sensitive for him to talk about here. The first is the war in Yemen, where there is a humanitarian disaster.
The UAE, his host, is engaged in a military campaign in Yemen. He might also want to talk about human rights. And this is a difficult topic in a region where political descent is largely banned. He might also wish to talk about refugees. He's often said that rich countries should take in refugees in the conflicts in the region.
But, countries in the Gulf had been less than twice take on refugees. And they tended to go to the other part of the Middle East instead.
>> It is all part of a push by the UAE to project an image of tolerance but also comes at a time of social reform elsewhere in the region. Although the Pope will only go to the UAE, his visit is being closely watched by Catholics elsewhere. In Qatar, churches are allowed, but Catholics say they feel restricted outside their place of worship.
Churches are also allowed in Iman, Kuwait, and Bahrain. But in ultra conservative Saudi Arabia, they're band. One worshipper in Riyadh said they attend mass in embassies, whispering a password to gain access. This historic visits will provide a glimmer of hope.