A mother of six who has been appointed as the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first ambassador to the Vatican on Thursday presented her credentials to Pope Benedict XVI.

The pontiff welcomed Hissa Abdulla Ahmed Al—Otaiba and recalled how diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the mostly Muslim Gulf state had “only recently been established” in 2007.

Pope Benedict praised the “openness” of the UAE towards foreign workers, some 1 million of whom are Christians, including many Catholics from the Philippines.

“I would like to note here with satisfaction that there are several Catholic churches (in the UAE) built on lands donated by the public authorities,” Pope Benedict said.

“Freedom of worship contributes significantly to the common good and brings social harmony to all those societies where it is practiced,” the pontiff added.

Ms. Al—Otaiba, 51, is also currently the UAE’s ambassador to Spain.

Besides her native Arabic, she speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, the Vatican said.

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