A delegation of the H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival visited the Vatican as part of its visit to Italy which is hosting this year's Festival and the 7th edition of the three-day World Arabian Horse Racing Conference (WAHRC) in Rome, Italy, from May 26, 2016.
This is the first time a high-profile, large Arab delegation of more than 300 Emirati and Arab sportsmen is visiting the Vatican, which has prepared a special programme for the visit.
Jose Bettencourt, the Holy See's Head of Protocol, welcomed the delegation which included Sulaiman Hamid Al Mazroui, UAE Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union, Dr. Hisa Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to Spain and Non-resident Ambassador to the State of Vatican, Saqr Al Raisi, UAE Ambassador to Italy, Dr. Abdulla Elreyes, Director-General of the UAE National Archives, Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Abdul Rahman Al Sidairi of Saudi Arabia, Ms Lara Sawaya, Executive Director of the HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, a number of representatives of the UAE's national companies, breeders, owners and trainers as well as media persons.
Holy See's Head of Protocol took the delegation on a more than two hours long tour of the Vatican Museums and Galleries where they learned about manuscripts and historical symbols dating back to more than 2500 years.
Ambassador Al Otaiba and Ms Lara Sawaya presented to Jose Bettencourt a painting called 'Mercy,' an Arabic calligraphy manuscript inspired by the dome of the Grand Mosque of Sheikh Zayed in Abu Dhabi which affirms that all divine religions are united by God's mercy.
Addressing the event, Al Otaiba said, 'Sports is today a universal language and the UAE is proud of its international role in sports in general and the Arab equestrian sports in particular. The UAE is today one of the leaders in the world horse racing championships, thanks to the rich legacy of the forefathers which cherishes the values imbibed by the UAE people, namely, honour, pride, strength, loyalty and tolerance.' "From here, I would like to extend our greetings to Pope Francis and his government for the assistance and support they provided across the world to find solutions to many international crises which caused much pain and suffering to many peoples. We are working together to counter violence, promote tolerance, fight poverty and ignorance and to reach solutions to world crises so that nations can live in peace and welfare,' she added.
'The UAE is a model before the world for its rapid progress and its openness towards the world and its vision for as well as its firm commitment to move forward and its readiness to extend a hand of cooperation to the Vatican to spread peace in the world," she said.
Dr. Abdulla Elreyes, Director-General of the UAE National Archives, Ministry of Presidential Affairs said, "The Festival presence at the Vatican reflects the UAE's pursuit of peace and we are doing this through the Arabian horse racing fraternity of the world."
For his part, Jose Bettencourt, the Holy See's Head of Protocol, said Vatican values the noble principles the UAE is promoting so as the world can live in love, peace and tolerance. He said the visit reflected these noble values that bind peoples together and bolsters broader, viable co-operation.
The Vatican hosted a grand dinner banquet in honour of the guests which was attended by Jose Bettencourt.
Over 500 guests from 81 countries representing the six continents are participating in the WAHRC at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The Conference will be followed by the ‘Emirates Race Day' at the Capanelle race course during which the Festival will stage three of its main races- the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup (Listed) race, the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship race and the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Apprentice World Championship race.
The WAHRC is an important event as it deals with various aspects of Arabian racing and different challenges it faces. It also attempts to find solutions to the problems and we are looking forward to this event.
The WAHRC 2016 will focus on three sessions – Breeding; Racing and Training; and Weight Loss Control (jockeys).
In his welcoming remarks, Saqr Ahmed Al Raisi, the UAE Ambassador to Italy, said,' "Arabian horse racing is now competing with all major sport and we hope this conference adds to the growth and progress all over the globe."
"We have to hail the support of the leadership of the UAE who have led from the front in helping the heritage sport of the country grow and with this Arabian racing has gained tremendously," he said