Doha (AsiaNews) – Qatar’s first Catholic Church will be inaugurated this February. Dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosaries, the Church will serve the 140 thousand Catholics who live in the Muslim nation of almost 800 thousand inhabitants, mainly immigrants. The complex includes a conference centre, a residence for temporary accommodation, a bookshop and cafe. The cost of construction amounts to 15 million dollars: Catholics from across the Arabian peninsula mainly Philippines and Indians, have contributed.
The church has been erected on lands in the southern suburbs of the capital Doha, donated by the Emir Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who over recent years has spearheaded a policy of inter-religious dialogue and who in 2002 also instigated relations with the Holy See. The building will have neither bell tower nor cross. I twill not be open to the public but will be reserved for the exclusive use of the faithful. These limitations together with the ban on conversion which exists for Muslims, is in a certain way the dues that the Emir must pay to the majority wahabi Muslims, of Saudi inspiration, who have long opposed the construction of the Church.
The future parish priest Fr. Tom Veneration, tells AsiaNews: “After over 20 years of making formal requests to the authorities, the government has finally granted the Christian confessions land to build their own places of worship. The Catholic community were given the largest piece of land, because our presence here goes back down the centuries and also because our community is the largest, now numbering over 100 thousand faithful”.
The priest who has worked in Doha for the last five years, is originally from Manila: “Up on till now – he adds - we have been gathering to pray in our homes and in the small chapels inside the American and Philippine campus in Doha. Together with all the Catholics who live here we are really delighted at the idea that soon we will be able to celebrate mass in a true Church, sign of our presence in this land”.