Pope Francis arrived in Abu Dhabi at the Presidential Airport on Sunday evening (4th February 2019) for his landmark visit to the UAE. He was accompanied by his second personal secretary, who is also his translator, Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a Coptic Catholic priest.
They were greeted by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and then Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar University and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders according to The National who were also on the flight from Rome.
Pope Francis’ translator, Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who is known for his warm smile, will accompany the Pope on his tour of UAE for the historic three day visit. Speaking fluent Arabic, English, French and Italian, the translator is at the hub of the action when the Pope meets with any foreign leaders.
According to the publication Inside the Vatican, Monsignor Lahzi Gaid, was born in 1975 in Cairo and grew up with seven siblings. He was ordained at the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, after which he went to Rome where he studied Eastern Christianity at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (the school for Vatican diplomats), and in 2007 he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See.
He was appointed as chaplain by Pope Benedict XVI with the addition of the title Monsignor – an honorific form of address used by some members of the clergy. Then, in April 2014, he was invited to become Pope Francis’ second personal secretary, a role which involves answering correspondence in the name of the pontiff.
In an interview with Egyptian journalist Magdi Allam in 2008, Monsignor Lahzi Gaid said: “I have always tried to be the friend who respects the different religion of the other without being afraid of speaking the truth.”
Monsignor Lahzi Gaid will be translating from Arabic to Italian for the Pope, at all functions throughout the three day tour, including the Presidential Palace, the Grand Mosque, and finally, Holy Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium.