Bahrain inaugurates the largest Catholic church in the Gulf


The king donated the land for the new complex of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia

The Kingdom of Bahrain inaugurated this weekend the largest Catholic church in the Gulf region and the Arabian Peninsula, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, more than eight years after King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa made donation of 9,000 square meters (approximately 97,000 feet) of land for the initiative.

The church can accommodate at least 2,300 people and the complex includes offices, a bishop’s residence and a courtyard that can accommodate 6,000 visitors and worshipers. It was built at a cost of over $ 14.5 million (BD 5.5 million).

Around 80,000 Catholics live in Bahrain, most of them expatriate workers from the Philippines and India, but the new complex will also be a destination for the Catholic community of over 2 million people in the wider Arabian Gulf.

The King of Bahrain sent his son, Abdullah bin Hamad, to inaugurate the church, in the presence of Bishop Paul Hender, both Apostolic Vicar for South Arabia and Apostolic Administrator for North Arabia, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, representing Pope Francis, and a number of personalities and officials in Bahrain.

This historic event confirms Bahrain’s dedication to tolerance and peaceful coexistence between different religions, and some 81 years ago the kingdom saw the beginning of the emergence of churches.

Dr Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence, said in a speech at the ceremony: “This historic event confirms Bahrain’s commitment to tolerance and the peaceful coexistence between different religions, and About 81 years ago the kingdom saw the beginning of the emergence of churches.

Sheikh Khalid continued, “The Kingdom of Bahrain has a long and long history of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, respect for others and respect for all religions and beliefs, which has continued through the rule of the Al Khalifa family. . … In 1893 the American [Arabian] The Mission Society came and a church, school and hospital were established during the reign of Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, the ruler of Bahrain at the time. Because of this perspective, this insight and this future vision, today we are proud of the historical, civilizational and cultural heritage that Bahrain contains. “

Father Xavier Marian D’Souza, pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Manama, told The Media Line: The Arabian Gulf region, which has an area of ​​approximately 9,000 square meters.

“In Bahrain there are approximately 80,000 Catholics residing in the kingdom, most of whom are of Asian nationality, as well as Jews, Buddhists and many diverse religions, as these find a safe haven in Bahrain in the midst of acceptance and welcoming of peace. love the Bahraini people, ”said Father Xavier.

Hala Ramzy, a Christian of Egyptian origin and member of the Shura Council of Bahrain, the upper house of the National Assembly, told Media Line: “The King of Bahrain has adopted many initiatives to promote a culture of tolerance and local and global coexistence, including the hosting by the Kingdom of Bahrain of numerous events aimed at promoting dialogue between religions, civilizations and cultures.

“The opening of this cathedral coincided with the season of the kingdom’s celebrations of its 50th national holiday, as well as the celebration by the Christian community of the birth of Christ, which is a source of joy, happiness and pride for all. Christians of all nationalities, “she continued.

“It is known that the Kingdom of Bahrain hosted the first Catholic Church in the region, the Church of the Sacred Heart, in 1939, and today we are celebrating in the largest cathedral in the region, so we thank God for this blessing, ”Ramzy said.

The deep significance of this great edifice is not in the realm of its construction or distinctive architectural design, but rather that it indicates the values ​​of tolerance and coexistence in Bahrain.

Reverend Hani Aziz, pastor of the National Evangelical Church of Bahrain, told The Media Line: “In the new Catholic cathedral, which is the largest in the Arabian Gulf region, we have confirmed that the deep meaning of this grand edifice is not in the area of ​​its distinctive construction or architectural design, but rather that it indicates the values ​​of tolerance and coexistence in Bahrain.

“Although the minority is Christian in Bahrain and Islam is the state religion, there is total respect and complete freedom for all religions and civilizations to perform their rituals freely and comfortably,” he said. he declared, adding: “The opening of the cathedral is one of the clear proofs to confirm this.

Labiba Joseph Fares, editor-in-chief of Al Bilad newspaper, told The Media Line: “King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s sponsorship of the opening of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Arabs in Awali reflects and distinguishes the image of high tolerance in Bahrain.

“As a Christian living in Bahrain for 15 years, I practice my religious rituals with respect and have never been subjected to any form of harassment or offensive speech. In Bahrain there is respect and affection, and the people of Bahrain are kind, generous and hospitable, ”she said.


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