VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A new Catholic church has opened in the United Arab Emirates. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, traveled to the capital, Abu Dhabi, to celebrate the inaugural Mass at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on 12 June. The church was built on land granted by the municipality.
According to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, about 900,000 Catholics live in the Middle Eastern nation; most are domestic workers from India and the Philippines.
In his homily, Cardinal Parolin said the permission granted for new churches is “a concrete sign of hospitality that the Emirates has now shown toward Christians” and testifies to the state’s commitment to “a society based on coexistence and mutual respect.”
The inaugural Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia, and Bishop Camillo Ballin, apostolic vicar of Northern Arabia.
During a civic ceremony one day earlier, Nahyan bin Mubarak, the country’s minister for culture, said St. Paul’s represents leaders’ “religious tolerance.”
St. Paul’s is the second Catholic church in Abu Dhabi and the eighth in the country. A chapel dedicated to St. Teresa was opened in the capital last year. Daily Mass at St. Paul’s will be in English; weekly Masses will be in Arabic, Malayalam and Tagalog. The parish territory numbers about 60,000 Catholics.
The first Catholic church in the country, dedicated to St. Joseph, was established in Abu Dhabi in 1962. It became a cathedral in 1983.