Catholic Church in Saudi Arabia

Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait also hosts Catholic Churches!

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti wants churches destroyed – it’s time for the West to rethink relations

by posted Thursday, 19 Mar 2015
The Grand Mufti prays at a mosque in Riyadh (Photo: PA)
The Grand Mufti prays at a mosque in Riyadh (Photo: PA)

Unless Western powers show they care about human rights they will be exposed as hypocrites

This story, reported by an Israeli source, about the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia calling for the demolition of all churches in the Arabian peninsula, may at first sight seem like an old story. In fact it is not, it is merely that the Mufti has said exactly the same thing before now; presumably he has had to repeat himself as people were not paying attention the first time.

There are several very interesting things that one should bear in mind when considering the Grand Mufti’s latest pronouncement. Here are just a few of them.

This is the Grand Mufti talking. It is not some bearded loon, or some fringe extremist, but rather the chief religious authority of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, home to the two holy mosques and so on. So this man speaks with authority. It is as if the Archbishop of Canterbury had spoken.

The Grand Mufti is appointed by the Saudi government. The Saudis are allies of us Brits and the Americans.

Search however hard, you will never ever find any pronouncement by any Catholic prelate calling for the destruction of mosques anywhere in the world. Rather the Church’s approach is laid down in the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, which has only nice things to say about Muslims. But imagine for a moment if a Catholic prelate were to call for the destruction of mosques, or indeed any restriction on Muslim worship. This would be an unwarranted interference in freedom of religion and would evoke a storm of protest.

Hilariously, the Mufti seems to be pushing at an open door. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia. That is because all non-Muslim worship in the Kingdom is illegal. There may be some places of worship inside embassies, but that is something of which people prefer not to talk, as it might count as provocative. There may be priests active in the Kingdom, but if so, they do not go about openly. There are some churches in the Gulf states, which has clearly got the Mufti going. The people who go to Mass in such churches now know that the Mufti is on to them. They are mainly workers from the Philippines and India, who have a pretty hard life as it is. Of course, this would be funny, if it were not for the fact that the Arabian peninsula depends for its prosperity on foreign workers, many of whom are Christian, and many of whom are notoriously badly treated. Now the Mufti wants to demolish their beloved churches. Nice one.

Finally, let us remember the very simple word “reciprocity”. This is something that we believe in, but the Saudis do not. There is, as has been pointed out many times, a mosque in Rome, our holy city. This was built with the Pope’s approval. When are the Saudis going to return the favour, as civility demands?

The Vatican has no diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as it cannot have diplomatic relations with any state that does not recognise freedom of religion. I am an official Catholic theologian, though my fatwas never quite get the attention I feel they deserve. The Mufti has repeated himself, and so will I. The West should show it is serious about human rights and disrupt diplomatic and cultural relations with the Saudis. This is a moral necessity. Until we do so, we are exposed as hypocrites.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2015/03/19/how-can-the-west-keep-up-good-relations-with-saudi-arabia-when-its-chief-religious-leader-wants-churches-destroyed/

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The Catholic Community in Saudi Arabia  

(note: these are secret churches in the sanctioned compounds by Saudi Arabia for the workers and are not talked about)

The Catholic Community in Saudi Arabia is part of the family of the Universal Church whose spiritual head is the Pope. On May 31, 2011, according to a decree of the Holy See, Saudi Arabia was detached from the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia and included in the newly-formed ecclesiastical territory of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia. The Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia is under the pastoral care and guidance of His Lordship Bishop Camillo Ballin, MCCJ.

According to an unofficial census, there are estimated to be more than 1.5 million Roman Catholics in Saudi Arabia. All the Christians/Catholics are expatriate workers from various parts of the world, notably the Philippines and India.

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state. The ethnic Saudi population is a hundred percent Muslim. There are no Saudi Christians at all and Islam is the only permitted religion. As yet, Saudi Arabia does not have official diplomatic ties with the Holy See. In a way, Saudi Arabia has indirect relations with the Vatican, as international conferences like the one in Madrid, prove. In 2007, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited the Pope at the Vatican gifting him a gold sword during his half-hour audience. Their discussion focused on the affinity between Islam and Christianity pertaining to issues such as the family and peace in the Middle East. This was the first ever audience by the head of the Roman Catholic Church with a Saudi monarch.

As Saudi Arabia is home to Islam's holiest sites, it does not permit churches to be built, as a result there are no Christian churches or places of worship. Non-Islamic religion is not recognized and its public display or activity is prohibited. The Catholic community respects the sensitivities of the region and has always maintained a low profile. Relations with the local authorities are generally good. The country allows Roman Catholics and Christians of other denominations to enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work.

The situation of the Church in Saudi Arabia is similar to that of the early Christian communities.

http://www.avona.org/saudi/saudi_about.htm

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March 26, 2008

Saudi Arabia Says No To A Catholic Church: The Islamic Fear of Freedom of Religion

By Hugh McNichol
Pewsitter.com



March 26, 208 - There was news last week about Vatican discussions with Saudi Arabia for the building of a Catholic Church in that country. Within the last twenty-four hours there are several news stories stating the Saudi Arabia will not agree to this until the Catholic Church acknowledges the Prophet Mohammed.

The Saudi government needs to acknowledge and affirm the essential human right to worship freely throughout the world regardless of religious affiliation. The real issue that needs to be considered is the freedom of all people to publicly practice their faiths, regardless of what religion dominates the political landscape.

The Islamic community in the Middle East should not require the Catholic Church’s public acceptance of the Prophet Mohammed as part of its negotiations towards establishing a Catholic presence in Saudi Arabia. In the same manner, Catholics should not require any Saudi proclamation that favors Christianity either.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no country that requires a public proclamation of any specific religion before the right to assemble and worship is permitted. There are, of course, areas that have religious persecution in the world; Islamic countries often prohibit public displays of Christianity. However, a public proclamation regarding the superiority of Islam over Christianity is something that undermines the entire concept of religious freedom and tolerance.

Catholicism does not need to make any public proclamation regarding the existence of the Islamic faith. Consistently the Church has proclaimed that the Islamic faith is not considered as a legitimate path towards salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ and Christian baptism are the only vehicles that ultimately bring about salvation. The mere fact that the Church proclaims Islam and other faiths in error of proper and correct religious convictions is proof enough of the Church’s acceptance of the existence of Islam and other non-Christian religions.

Since its inception, Islam has maintained a consistent campaign of theological terrorism, waged against non-Islamic believers. Not only have Islamic countries imposed Islamic rule over all faiths, they have made any faith outside of Islam a punitive crime against society. The blood of thousands of faithful Christians indeed acknowledges the presence of Mohammed’s religious convictions. The Catholic Church continues to suffer persecution by the same alleged religious group. One only needs to recall the Chaldean Archbishop’s death in Iraq earlier this month to be reminded of this fact.

The religions of the West have made considerable efforts to maintain an open and evolving relationship with the followers of Islam. What the followers of Islam need to realize and acknowledge is the firm conviction on the part of the Catholic Church that outside of the Church there is no salvation. While we can diplomatically and politically hope for a nurturing of relationships between our faiths, ultimately we seek their total religious conversion to Christ. In a period that constantly suggests political correctness and attempts to refrain from any type of offense against other faiths, Catholicism honestly put is in the business of converting everyone to the precepts of our faith.

Why does Islam fear freedom and the free exercise of religion? Could it be they know that if given such freedom, many Muslims would convert? If not, why are they afraid of competing in arena of religious faith. The Catholic Church does not fear such competition. It welcomes it. The Church recognizes and accepts that all people have the freedom to choose to worship in whatever manner they choose. However, whether Muslim, Buddhist, Episcopalian, Jew, Protestant, or a member of any other faith, our ultimate goal is to have them embrace the faith - - but of their own free will - - not a coerced conversion at the edge of a sword .

From a Catholic/Christian perspective it is just good business to seek new followers, and we welcome all converts of Islam and any other religion. Our religious evangelization as Catholics includes a peaceful message of Gospel love, which is not determined by stipulations that acknowledge the superiority of one religion over another. We simply ask for total conversion to the message of Jesus Christ. If indeed this conversion is not acceptable to sensitive Islamic believers, then please continue on your path of religious convictions. We openly proclaim you indeed have the right to be wrong about God and the proper understanding of faith. However, we will not intimidate, or otherwise manipulate you into religious submission.

We believe in God’s unfolding plan for all peoples and faiths. We pray that the message of Jesus Christ will ultimately manifest itself among the peoples of the Islamic world, and our peaceful message will prevail over the violent message of Islamic political and social domination. In the meanwhile, as faithful believers in the same ultimate God, Islam should recognize the intrinsic human rights of religious freedom and expression for all faiths, not just the secular sponsored faith of Mohammed.



Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes freelance works on topics that involve Catholicism. He writes a daily column, verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com
http://www.pewsitter.com/view_news_id_7306.php

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Saturday, March 22, 2008 6:57:04 PM (IST)  

First Catholic Church for Saudi Arabia ?

First Catholic church for Saudi Arabia
Catholic News, Vatican

Vatican, Mar 22: Negotiations are underway to build the first Catholic church in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah lending his support for its construction.

Vatican Radio reports the Vatican and the Saudi government are currently in talks to allow the church despite the kingdoms ban on allowing the construction of any non-Muslim place of worship.

No religion other than Islam is allowed to schedule public services, and even the possession of bibles, rosaries, and crucifixes is forbidden.

Saudi Arabia is the only country on the Arabian Peninsula without a Catholic church despite the 800,000 Catholics - virtually all of who are foreign workers.

While Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See, King Abdullah became the first reigning Saudi monarch ever to visit the Vatican last November.

Commenting after his meeting with the Pope Vatican officials confirmed the Pontiff pressed for permission to open a Catholic church in the kingdom.

Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that opening a Catholic parish in the Islamic land would be "a historic achievement" for religious freedom and a major step forward for inter-religious dialogue.

The apostolic nuncio to Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, is reportedly the lead Vatican negotiator in talks with Saudi officials.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=44912

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A Church in Saudi Arabia?

By Jeff Israely/Vatican City Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2008


Karim Jaafar / AFP / Getty

A cameraman films the first mass held at St. Mary's Roman Catholic church in Doha, Qatar, on March 15, 2008.

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Interfaith dialogue has become an important exercise in finding the right words to overcome both extreme violence and ordinary misunderstanding. True progress, however, is best measured in deeds. The inauguration last week of Qatar's first Christian church — a small Catholic chapel bearing neither bells nor visible crosses — has been hailed as a welcome step forward in relations between Catholicism and Islam. But an even more dramatic development is under discussion just across the border: The Vatican has confirmed that it is negotiating for permission to build the first church in Saudi Arabia.

Presiding over the cradle of Islam and home to its holiest sites, the Saudi monarchy has long banned the open worship of other faiths, even as the number of Catholics resident in Saudi Arabia has risen to 800,000 thanks to an influx of immigrant workers from places like the Philippines and India. Mosques are the only houses of prayer in a country where the strict Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam dominates. But Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, the papal envoy to the smaller countries on the Arabian peninsula, such as Kuwait and Qatar, has confirmed that talks are under way to establish formal diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, and to eventually allow for Catholic churches to be built there. Pope Benedict XVI is believed to have personally appealed to King Abdullah on the topic during the Saudi monarch's first ever visit to the Vatican last November.

Top Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that a Catholic parish in this key Islamic country would be "a historic achievement" in the push to expand religious freedom and foster a positive interfaith rapport. Under Benedict, the Catholic hierarchy has stepped up calls from its Muslim counterparts for "reciprocity," demanding that the same religious freedom enjoyed by Muslims in the West should be granted to Christian minorities in the Islamic world. They note that Europe's biggest mosque, built with Saudi funds, was opened in 1995 in Rome, just across the river from the Vatican.

Pope Benedict passionately condemned last week's death of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped on Feb. 29 in the northern Iraqi city. As many as 350,000 of the 800,000 Christians in Iraq before the war have since fled the country, while smaller but similar exoduses have occurred in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and other parts of the Arab world.

While Christians in those areas trace their roots to the earliest centuries of the faith, the Catholics in Saudi Arabia are mostly migrant workers. And the restrictions on any outward manifestation of their religious beliefs have been particularly severe. The celebration of non-Muslim holidays is forbidden, as is the wearing of crucifixes and other religious symbols.

Benedict has been seen as both stumbling block and catalyst in the search to improve relations between Christians and Muslims. His Septempber 2006 lecture at Regensberg University in Germany on the relationship between faith and reason, and how it might explain religiously inspired violence, included an offensive historical reference to the Prophet Muhammed. But after initial Muslim anger at his remarks cooled — and the Pope made a conciliatory visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul — there have been signs of a productive Catholic-Islam dialogue taking shape. Prominent Muslim and Christian clerics have exchanged messages expressing a mutual desire for better understanding, and Vatican officials last month announced the first in a series of high-level meetings with Muslims next November, which will include an appearance by Benedict.

In little-reported remarks just three months after his controversial speech in Germany, the Pope spoke of the challenge posed to Islam by a violent minority within its ranks. "The Muslim world today is finding itself faced with an urgent task. This task is very similar to the one that has been imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment," Benedict said in a speech to officials of the Roman Curia. "On the one hand, one must counter a dictatorship of positivist reason that excludes God from the life of the community and from public organizations, thereby depriving man of his specific criteria of judgment. On the other, one must welcome the true conquests of the Enlightenment, human rights and especially the freedom of faith and its practice, and recognize these also as being essential elements for the authenticity of religion."

After Easter week, Benedict will no doubt be focusing on his next big speech, where some of the same themes may very well recur. On April 18, the pontiff arrives in New York to address the General Assembly of the United Nations.

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1723715,00.html

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March 25th 2014 Rev-1

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