Arabia Vatican City (Tuesday, 09/09/2014, Gaudium Press) The foundation stone of the future Cathedral of Our Lady in Bahrain, the largest Catholic church in the Persian Gulf, was blessed by Pope Francis in a ceremony attended by Mgr. Petar Rajic, Apostolic Nuncio to the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Catholics from Bahrain and neighboring countries. The blessed rock was taken from the Holy Door opened by Saint John Paul II in Jubilee Year 2000.
Transverse plan of the project the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in Bahrain. Photo: Northern Arabia Catholic Faith Services.
According to Aid of the Church in Need, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia will have a great significance for Catholics (estimated to 2.5 million), in the northern part of the peninsula. “Not only it is a major center for Catholics from all over Bahrain, but as well for Catholics in the neighboring countries of the region,” the organization said. “Especially in nearby Saudi Arabia, where it is not allowed to build Christian churches.” The Organization Northern Arabia Catholic Faith Services estimated that some 100 underground Catholic communities in the Vicariate of Northern Arabia will benefit from the project.
The dimensions of the temple are certainly never seen before in a predominantly Muslim territory. The Cathedral will hold 2,500 people seated and will be built on land donated by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Next to the temple a great pastoral center will be built as well a lodging area for pilgrims. Mons. Camillo Ballin, Vicar for North Arabia, has help fundraising especially in the United States. Construction could begin before the end of 2014 and can take three to five years.
“God has given us a great opportunity to put our faith into action and do something special for thousands of migrant workers, for them to have a place to serve and worship,” reads a statement from Northern Arabia Catholic Faith Services. Bahraini Catholics are estimated to about 100,000 believers, of which two thousand are locals. In Saudi Arabia alone some 1.5 million Catholics, mostly Filipinos and Indians, lack for a place of worship and are exposed to imprisonment or deportation if they openly express their faith.
Information from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Northern Arabia Catholic Faith Services