Doha (AsiaNews) – Work has begun on the first Catholic Church in Qatar, which after a 14 centuries has finally received permission to open a place of worship in the country. The building which lies south of the capital – will not be open to the public, instead it will draw together in prayer Qatar’s mainly foreign Catholic community.
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”.
He adds, the Church land “was given to us by Emir Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who in recent years has promoted a politics of inter religious dialogue while at the same time maintaining the laws which forbid any attempts to convert the local population, for the most part Muslim, to any other religion. This really is the only great limit to our pastoral work, but we must comply”. The Church will be dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.
Roman Catholics from all over the Arabian Peninsula - many of them migrant workers - are helping to pay for the m building, which is scheduled to open at the end of the year.
The priest who has been working in Doha for the past three years is originally from Manila: “Up on till now 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.”
He continues that Qatar’s Catholic community, “is free but isolated. We are growing in number each year, but in now way can we carry out our apostolic mission among the local community. In a way this guarantees stable relations with the government. However it also limits our mission”.
Qatar has a population of about 750 thousand, mainly of Islamic faith. The government re established its relations with the Vatican only in 2002, and for almost 15 centuries has opposed the construction of Christian Churches under pressure from the wahabi who hold a majority in the country and see them as a profanation of the “holy land”.