The consecration of the largest Catholic church in the Arabian Peninsula

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An image of the cathedral when the work is drawing to a close

An image of the cathedral nearing completion – According to the architects’ report, on the cathedral’s website http://www.bahraincathedral.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/sept/report_sept_2021.pdf

Tomorrow, December 10, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will consecrate the cathedral dedicated to Mary Queen of Arabia. The small Catholic community of the kingdom from Bahrain, about 80 thousand baptized, finally has its point of reference. It’s the largest Catholic church in the Arabian Peninsula; a first cathedral, dedicated to Holy family in the desert, was built from 1956 to 1961 in Madinat al-Kuwait, still belonging to the apostolic vicariate which includes Bahrain, Kuwait and, formally, Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain is one of the few Muslim countries in the Arabian Peninsula to have aplocal Christian colony, especially Roman Catholics, since 1930. These are mainly migrant workers from Asia and also include expatriates from Western countries; currently constitute the 10% of the population.

Although Islam is the official religion of the country and the Sharia (Islamic law), Christians and other religious groups enjoy freedom of worship, unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia. Bahrain, which maintains diplomatic relations with the Holy See, showed openness to interreligious dialogue: the historian was presented here Document on human fraternity for world peace and life together, signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, February 4, 2019. On the other hand, the one who for Catholics is the Mother of God is recognized by Muslims as the mother of the great prophet Isa. recite it Koran: “The angels said, ‘O Maryam, Allah has chosen you, purified you and elected you from among all” (Sura ali-Imran, 3:42).

the King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa inaugurated the sacred building. It was he who already donated 9,000 square meters of land to the Catholic community in 2013 so that they could build a church and the laying of the first stone dates back to May 31, 2014. The project was enthusiastically supported. by the apostolic vicar of the time. Camille Ballin, died last year. Aid to the Church in Need (ACS) International, always very attentive to the conditions of minority Christians, also intervened in the different stages of the construction, considered as a great step forward in dialogue and at the same time a witness of the ever-growing number of Catholics in the region. .

A virtual description of the building is available on the cathedral website, which may contain more than 2,300 people, although only a small group of devotees will participate in the ceremony due to the sanitary prophylaxis. There are two large chapels and two large halls, as well as special spaces for confessions. The octagonal shape recalls the eschatological meaning and the arrows recall the wind towers of the houses on the Gulf Coast. The structure looks like a tent and wants to remember the one in which, according to the Old Testament, Moses met his people.

The whole of the cathedral will become not only a place of worship of reference for the Catholic community of the region, but also the seat of the episcopal curia. It will house a refuge and a training center. One of its main characteristics is one polychrome statue of Our Lady of Arabia placed inside.

The consecration of the cathedral also acquires importance in the light of recent message by which King Ahmed bin Isa officially invited Pope Francis to visit Bahrain. The official invitation was given to the Pontiff by Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa, His Majesty’s adviser for diplomatic affairs, on November 25 at the Vatican. During the visit, the Bahraini monarch’s envoy also conveyed to the Pope the greetings and wishes for good health sent by King Ahmad, as well as his “appreciation for the fundamental and leading role played by the Pope in l ‘establishment and promotion of interreligious dialogue and understanding between various cultures and civilizations, as well as in the dissemination of the values ​​of human fraternity and coexistence among all ”.


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