In a historic moment for interfaith relations in the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Gulf state in February 2019.

The Vatican announced the visit on Thursday, and Emirati leaders were quick to welcome the news with messages shared on social media.

The visit will notably mark the first time that a pope visits the Arabian Peninsula.

According to The National, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, had personally delivered the UAE's invitation back in June.

Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic in the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, announced in an official video that the pope is set to visit Abu Dhabi on February 3-5 to participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on Human Fraternity.

The bishop also said a public mass led by Pope Francis will be held in the emirate on February 5.

"I thank the UAE government for their generosity. Not only have they made the visit possible, but have wholeheartedly given us a venue to celebrate us," the bishop added.

The pope, who has previously visited other Muslim-majority nations  including Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan, is also scheduled for a trip to Morocco in March.

According to The National, the pope has actively promoted interfaith relations with Muslims and expressed sympathy for oppressed minorities in the Arab world, unlike his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

"May the visit be an important step in the dialogue between Muslims and Christians, and contribute to mutual understanding and peace-making in the region of the Middle East," the bishop also said in the video.

The United Arab Emirates is serious about promoting tolerance

Home to a wide array of cultures and nationalities, the Gulf state has been exerting significant efforts to promote religious coexistence.

According to Pew, a US-based fact-tank, the UAE's Christian population currently stands at 13 percent, with the number increasing with continuous immigration. The majority are foreigners working in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. 

The Muslim-majority country includes around 40 churches, up from 25 churches in 2005.

In February 2016, Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi was appointed as the UAE's Minister of State for Tolerance, hailed as a world-first.

During the same year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, visited Pope Francis at the Vatican in an effort to promote "peace and stability."